Galaxies, Nebulae and Star Clusters

Magellanic Clouds

The Magellanic Clouds are two irregular dwarf galaxies visible to the naked eye at locations south of 20 degrees north.

The Magellanic Clouds are part of the so called Local Group of galaxies, which includes the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way and the Triangulum Galaxy and a number of smaller galaxies.

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are currently approximately 163,000 and 206,000 light-years, respectively, away from earth - about six times and seven and a half times, respectively, as far from Earth as Earth is from the center of the Milky Way. Latest observations suggest that this is the closest they have ever been and ever will be to the Milky Way.
Magellanic Clouds; Wikipedia

Both galaxies are currently Satellite galaxies of the Milky Way, meaning they are in orbit around the Milky Way. One full orbit would take at least four billion years. They are thought to be still on their first orbit, which may not be finished as the merger between Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy is expected to occur in about three to four billion years.

Sources: Wikipedia, Universe Today: What are the Magellanic Clouds, Universe Today: History of the Magellanic Clouds,

Small Magellanic Cloud;

Large Magellanic Cloud;

The Magellanic Clouds have been part of mythology and astronomy in Africa, Australia and South America since ancient times.

In the Islamic world, they have been know since traders traveled to the south of the Arabic Peninsula (about the 9th century AD)

Europeans discovered them during the first sea voyages into the South Atlantic Ocean (16th century).

Click here for the history of discovery and for myths about these galaxies.

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