(or Nubeculae Magellani) are two irregular
dwarf galaxies visible in the Southern Celestial Hemisphere; they are
members of the
and are orbiting the
Because they both show signs of a bar structure, they are often
galaxies. The two galaxies are:
Large Magellanic Cloud
Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), approximately 160,000 light-years away
Small Magellanic Cloud
Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), approximately 200,000 light years away
3 Mini Magellanic Cloud (MMC)
4 See also
7 External links
Probably the oldest continuous extant references to the clouds come
Khoisan culture of Southern Africa. The ancestors of these
people appear to have been quite separate from all other living humans
for 100–200 thousand years.[not in citation given][relevant? –
Another long history of cultural association may have re-emerged with
the migration of humans south from the
Middle East reaching Australia
approximately 50–60 thousand years ago. Those people were the
ancestors of the Aborigines, whose various cultures have a variety of
stories about these galaxies.
Magellanic Clouds were known to the
Polynesians and served as
important navigation markers. Collectively they were known to Māori
of New Zealand as Nga Patari-Kaihau or as Te Reporepo and were thought
to be predictors of winds.
Magellanic Clouds have been known since the first millennium in
Western Asia. The first preserved mention of the Large Magellanic
Cloud is by the
Ibn Qutaybah (d. 889 CE), in his book
on Al-Anwaa (stations of the Moon in pre-Islamic Arabian culture):
"وأسفل من سهيل قدما سهيل . وفى مجرى قدمى
سهيل، من خلفهما كواكب زهر كبار، لا ترى
بالعراق، يسميها أهل تهامة الأعبار And
below Canopus, there are the feet of Canopus, and on their extension,
behind them bright big stars, not seen in Iraq, the people of Tihama
call them al-a`baar." Later Al Sufi, also a Muslim, and a
professional astronomer, in 964 CE, in his Book of Fixed Stars,
mentioned the same quote, but with a different spelling. Under Argo
Navis, he quoted that "unnamed others have claimed that beneath
Canopus there are two stars known as the 'feet of Canopus', and
beneath those there are bright white stars that are unseen in
Najd, and that the inhabitants of
Tihama call them al-Baqar [cows],
Ptolemy did not mention any of this so we [Al-Sufi] do not know if
this is true or false.". Both
Ibn Qutaybah and Al-Sufi were
probably quoting from the former's contemporary (and compatriot) and
famed scientist Abu Hanifa Dinawari's mostly lost work on Anwaa. Abu
Hanifa was probably quoting earlier sources, which may be just
travelers stories, and hence Al-Sufi's comments about their veracity.
In Sri Lanka, from ancient times, these clouds have been referred to
as the Maha Mera Paruwathaya meaning "the great mountain", as they
look like the peaks of a distant mountain range.
In Europe, the Clouds were first reported by 16th century Italian
Peter Martyr d'Anghiera
Peter Martyr d'Anghiera and Andrea Corsali, both based on
Portuguese voyages. Subsequently, they were reported by Antonio
Pigafetta, who accompanied the expedition of
Ferdinand Magellan on its
circumnavigation of the world in 1519–1522. However, naming
the clouds after Magellan did not become widespread until much later.
Uranometria they are designated as nubecula major and
nubecula minor. In the 1756 star map of the French astronomer
Lacaille, they are designated as le Grand Nuage and le Petit Nuage
("the Large Cloud" and "the Small Cloud"). Herschel in 1847 from
Cape Observatory South Africa spent 4 years writing a 400-page report
detailing over a thousand of the many stars, nebulae and clusters
which constitute the cloud which appeared to be a separate more
distant group to the usual stars in the Milky Way, an early indication
of separate galaxy.
Large Magellanic Cloud
Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).
Part of the
Small Magellanic Cloud
Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC).
Large Magellanic Cloud
Large Magellanic Cloud and its neighbour and relative, the Small
Magellanic Cloud, are conspicuous objects in the southern hemisphere,
looking like separated pieces of the
Milky Way to the naked eye.
Roughly 21° apart in the night sky, the true distance between them is
roughly 75,000 light-years. Until the discovery of the Sagittarius
Galaxy in 1994, they were the closest known galaxies
to our own (since 2003, the Canis Major Dwarf
Galaxy was discovered to
be closer still, and is now considered the actual nearest neighbor).
The LMC lies about 160,000 light years away, while the
SMC is around 200,000. The LMC is about twice the diameter of the
SMC (14,000 ly and 7,000 ly respectively). For comparison, the Milky
Way is about 100,000 ly across.
The total mass of these two galaxies is uncertain. Only a fraction of
their gas seems to have coalesced into stars and they probably both
have large dark matter halos. One recent estimate of the total mass of
the LMC is about 1/10 that of the Milky Way. That would make the LMC
rather a large galaxy in the present era of the observable universe.
Since the size of relatively nearby galaxies are highly skewed, the
average mass can be a misleading statistic. In terms of rank, the LMC
appears to be the fourth most massive member of over 50 galaxies in
the local group. Suggesting that the Magellanic cloud system is
historically not a part of the
Milky Way is evidence that the SMC has
been in orbit about the LMC for a very long time. The Magellanic
system seems most similar to the distinct NGC 3109 system, which is on
the edge of the Local Group.
Astronomers have long assumed that the
Magellanic Clouds have orbited
Milky Way at approximately their current distances, but evidence
suggests that it is rare for them to come as close to the
Milky Way as
they are now. Observation and theoretical evidence suggest that
Magellanic Clouds have both been greatly distorted by tidal
interaction with the
Milky Way as they travel close to it. The LMC
maintains a very clear spiral structure in radio-telescope images of
neutral hydrogen. Streams of neutral hydrogen connect them to the
Milky Way and to each other, and both resemble disrupted barred spiral
galaxies. Their gravity has affected the
Milky Way as well,
distorting the outer parts of the galactic disk.
Aside from their different structure and lower mass, they differ from
our galaxy in two major ways. First, they are gas-rich; a higher
fraction of their mass is hydrogen and helium compared to the Milky
Way. They are also more metal-poor than the Milky Way; the
youngest stars in the LMC and SMC have a metallicity of 0.5 and 0.25
times solar, respectively. Both are noted for their nebulae and
young stellar populations, but as in our own galaxy their stars range
from the very young to the very old, indicating a long stellar
Large Magellanic Cloud
Large Magellanic Cloud was host galaxy to a supernova (SN 1987A),
the brightest observed in over four centuries.
Measurements with the Hubble Space Telescope, announced in 2006,
Magellanic Clouds may be moving too fast to be long term
companions of the Milky Way. If they are in orbit, that orbit
takes at least 4 billion years. They are possibly on a first approach
and we are witnessing the start of a galactic merger that may overlap
with the Milky Way's expected merger with the Andromeda
perhaps the Triangulum Galaxy) in the future.
Mini Magellanic Cloud (MMC)
Astrophysicists D. S. Mathewson, V. L. Ford and N. Visvanathan
proposed that the SMC may in fact be split in two, with a smaller
section of this galaxy behind the main part of the SMC (as seen from
Earth's perspective), and separated by about 30,000 light years. They
suggest the reason for this is due to a past interaction with the LMC
splitting the SMC, and that the two sections are still moving apart.
They have dubbed this smaller remnant the Mini Magellanic
Astronomical surveys of the Magellanic Clouds
Galaxies in fiction
^ "Media Advisory: Virtual Press Conference to Mark ALMA
Inauguration". ESO. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
^ a b Allen, R. H. (1963).
Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning (Reprint
ed.). New York, NY:
Dover Publications Inc. pp. 294–295.
^ "Al-Anwaa, Ibn Qutaybah". Retrieved 4 Sep 2017.
^ "Observatoire de Paris (Abd-al-Rahman Al Sufi)". Retrieved 22 July
^ "Book of Fixed Stars, Al-Sufi (manuscript written and illustrated by
his son)". Retrieved 22 Feb 2017.
^ For Peter Martyr d'Anghiera's mention of the Magellanic clouds, see:
Petrus Martyr de Anghiera (1574) De rebus Oceanicis et Orbe Novo
[Concerning the ocean and the new world] (Cologne, (Germany): Geruinum
Calenium (Gerwin Calenius), 1574), decade 3, book 1, p. 217. (in
Latin) From p. 217: "Assecuti sunt Portugallenses alterius poli gradum
quintum & quinquagesimum amplius, ubi punctum, circumeuntes
quasdam nubeculas licet intueri, veluti in lactea via sparsos fulgores
per universum coeli globum intra eius spatii latitudinem." (The
Portuguese reached beyond the 55th degree of the other pole, where one
may observe certain nebulae revolving around the point [i.e., the
southern celestial pole], scattered in the
Milky Way like luminous
patches throughout the whole sphere of the sky, within the breadth of
its extent. [That is, nebulae appear in or beside the Milky Way
throughout its entire length in the southern sky.])
Humboldt, Alexander von, with
E.C. Otte and B.H. Paul, trans., Cosmos:
A Sketch of a Physical Description of the
Universe (London, England:
Henry G. Bohn, 1852), vol. 4, pp. 340–341.
For further details of – and other editions of – Peter Martyr
d'Anghiera's book De Orbe Novo, see's article: Decades of
the New World
^ From 1515 to 1517,
Andrea Corsali sailed to the East Indies and
China in a Portuguese ship. In 1516,
Andrea Corsali sent a letter to
Giuliano de' Medici, Duke of Nemours, mentioning the Magellanic
clouds. This letter was translated into English by Richard Eden
(c.1520–1576) and published in 1555. The relevant part of Corsali's
letter (translated by Eden) appears in:
Richard Eden, with Edward Arber, ed., The First Three English Books on
America … (Birmingham, England: 1885), "Of the pole antarike and the
starres abowt the same … ", p. 279. Corsali said that his ship had
passed the Cape of Good Hope ("the cape of Bona Speranza") and was at
37 degrees south latitude when he observed the Magellanic clouds:
"Here we sawe a marueylous order of starres, so that in the parte of
heauen contrary to owre northe pole, to know in what place and degree
the south pole was, we tooke the day with the soonne, and obserued the
nyght with the Astrolabie, and sawe manifestly twoo clowdes of
reasonable bygnesse mouynge abowt the place of the pole continually
now rysynge and nowe faulynge, so keepynge theyr continuall course in
circular mouying, with a starre euer in the myddest which is turned
abowt with them abowte xi degrees from the pole." (Here we saw a
marvelous arrangement of stars, so that in the part of heaven [that
is] opposite our north [celestial] pole, in order to know in what
place and degree [of latitude] the south [celestial] pole was, we
[measured our position during] the day using the sun, and observed
[our position during] the night using an astrolabe, and saw clearly
two clouds of reasonable bigness revolving around the location of the
[southern celestial] pole, continually now rising and now falling,
thus maintaining their continual course of circular motion, with a
star always in the middle [between them], which revolves with them
about 11 degrees from the [south celestial] pole.)
See also: Kanas, Nick,
Star Maps: History, Artistry, and Cartography,
2nd ed. (New York, New York: Springer Science + Business Media, 2012),
§ 22.214.171.124 Andreas Corsali, p. 118.
^ Pigafetta et al., with Lord Stanley of Alderley, trans., The First
Voyage Round the World, by Magellan … (London, England: Hakluyt
Society, 1874), p. 66. From p. 66: "The antarctic pole is not so
covered with stars as the arctic, for there are to be seen there many
small stars congregated together, which are like to two clouds a
little separated from one another, and a little dimmed, … "
^ Bayer, J., (1661) Uranometria, pl. Aaa (49) U.S. Naval Observatory;
retrieved on 2009-09-05
^ de Lacaille, N. L., (1756) Planisphere contenant les Constellations
Celestes, Memoires Academie Royale des Sciences pour 1752. Archived
2009-05-09 at the Wayback Machine. Linda Hall Library; retrieved on
^ "A Cosmic Zoo in the Large Magellanic Cloud". European Southern
Observatory. 1 June 2010. Retrieved 29 August 2010.
^ Macri, L. M.; et al. (2006). "A New Cepheid Distance to the
Galaxy NGC 4258 and Its Implications for the Hubble
Constant". The Astrophysical Journal. 652 (2): 1133–1149.
arXiv:astro-ph/0608211 . Bibcode:2006ApJ...652.1133M.
^ Freedman, Wendy L.; Madore, Barry F. "The Hubble Constant", Annual
Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 2010
^ Majaess, Daniel J.; Turner, David G.; Lane, David J.; Henden, Arne;
Krajci, Tom "Anchoring the Universal Distance Scale via a Wesenheit
Template", JAAVSO, 2010
Galaxy Explored". Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California
Institute of Technology. 5 January 2010. Retrieved 29 August
^ Ferris, Timothy (December 2011). "Dancing in the Dark". National
Geographic. 220 (6): 118. access-date= requires url= (help)
^  Archived July 15, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
Home.insightbb.com Retrieved on 2007-05-31
^ http://aa.springer.de/papers/8336003/2300925/sc6.htm Aa.springer.de
Retrieved on 2007-05-31
^ Chaisson and McMillan
^ "Press release:
Magellanic Clouds May Be Just Passing Through".
Harvard University. January 9, 2007.
^ Mathewson, D. S.; Ford, V. L.; Visvanathan, N. (1986). "The
structure of the Small Magellanic Cloud". The Astrophysical Journal.
301: 664. Bibcode:1986ApJ...301..664M. doi:10.1086/163932. CS1
maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
^ http://iopscience.iop.org/1538-3881/122/1/220/200523.text.html The
Astronomical Journal 122:220–231 July 2001
Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan, Astronomy Today (Englewood Cliffs:
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1993), p. 550.
Michael Zeilik, Conceptual Astronomy (New York: John Wiley & Sons,
Inc., 1993), pp. 357–8.
Magellanic Clouds Working Group
ESO: VISTA Peeks Through the Small Magellanic Cloud’s Dusty Veil
incl. Fotos & Anomations
The Milky Way
Milky Way →
Milky Way subgroup → Local Group →
Virgo Supercluster → Laniakea Supercluster → Observable
universe → Universe
Each arrow (→) may be read as "within" or "part of".
Center of the Milky Way
Supermassive black hole
Large Magellanic Cloud
Small Magellanic Cloud
Canes Venatici I
Canes Venatici II
Ursa Major I
Ursa Major II
Milky Way collision