Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
January 24, 1998
Explanation: Ferdinand Magellan and his crew had plenty of time to study the southern sky during their famous voyage around the world. As a result, two fuzzy cloud-like objects, not visible to northern hemisphere dwellers, are now known as the Clouds of Magellan. These star clouds are small irregular galaxies, satellites of our larger Milky Way spiral galaxy. The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) pictured above is only about 180,000 light-years distant - the only known galaxy closer is the Sagittarius Dwarf. Both the LMC and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) are joined to the Milky Way by a stream of cold hydrogen gas. An unusual effect called gravitational lensing has recently been detected in a few LMC stars, and there is hope this could tell us important information about the true composition of our universe.
Authors & editors:
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.