Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Small Cloud of Magellan

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The Small Cloud of Magellan

Portuguese navigator
Ferdinand Magellan
and his crew had plenty
of time to study the southern sky during the
first circumnavigation of planet Earth.

As a result, two celestial wonders
easily visible for southern hemisphere skygazers
are known as the Clouds of Magellan.

These cosmic clouds are now understood to be dwarf
irregular galaxies,
satellites of our larger spiral
Milky Way Galaxy.

The Small
Magellanic Cloud

pictured above actually spans 15,000 light-years or so
and contains several hundred million stars.

About 210,000 light-years distant in
the constellation
it is the fourth closest of the Milky Way's
known satellite galaxies, after the
Canis Major

galaxies and the
Magellanic Cloud

This gorgeous view also includes two foreground globular
star clusters NGC 362 (top left) and 47 Tucanae.

Spectacular 47 Tucanae
is a mere 13,000 light-years away and seen here to the left of the
Small Magellanic Cloud.

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