Astronomy Magazine

Magellanic Clouds

Posted on the 06 May 2011 by Gabe12logan
Magellanic Clouds are two small irregular galaxies that are gravitationally bound to our Milky Way galaxy. Both are visible to the naked eye, but only from the Earth's southern hemisphere. Large Magellanic Cloud is located about 160,000 light years away and it is our nearest galaxy, while the Small Magellanic Cloud is 200,000 light years away.
Large and Small Magellanic Clouds looks like a part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is torn from the main flow. They are irregular in shape and are considered to be satellites of our galaxy, although their movements are still not completely established. Large Magellanic Cloud has a diameter of about 40,000 light years, and small Magellanic cloud of 20,000 ly, which means that they are both much smaller than our galaxy. They are on the mutual distance of 75,000 light years, and their relationship has been demonstrated by the fact that they look covered by a single common haloo of hydrogen.
Magellanic Clouds are two nearest dwarf galaxies to the Milky Way, visible only from the southern hemisphere, and they looks like clouds. They were first noted by navigator Ferdinand Magellan in the early 16th century.
The presence of a large number of red, yellow and blue supergiants shows that in both galaxies stars are still born. Blue supergiants are very bright, many of them 10,000 times brighter than the Sun. In the Magellanic clouds, especially in large, there were discovered about 500 giant gaseous nebulas. These giant clouds of gas are very important "factories of stars". Both Magellanic Clouds orbiting galaxy in elliptical paths. Large Magellanic cloud for one revolution around the Milky Way takes 2 and a half billion years. It is predicted that the Milky Way in the next ten billion years will swallow all the matter of Magellanic clouds.

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