They are two small satellite galaxies of our Galaxy, which are about 160,000 light years away and therefore represent the closest external galaxies, immediately after Andromeda.
Easily visible to the naked eye throughout the southern hemisphere (and in the boreal latitude below 20 degrees), these two galaxies owe their name to the famous Portuguese navigator, Fernando de Magallanes (1480-1521) and were described in the story that of his trip around the world made his lieutenant Pigafetta (Magellan was killed by the natives after having landed in the Philippines).
The two nearby galaxies are called the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Small Magellanic Cloud. The first is on horseback between the constellations of the Dorado and the Mesa and has an apparent angular diameter of 6 degrees; the second is in the constellation of the Toucan and has an angular diameter of 2 degrees.
The amount of matter they contain is relatively modest: it is estimated that the first has a mass of 1/30 and the second of 1/200 with respect to our Galaxy. It is thought that the two galaxies are physically linked to ours through a flow of hydrogen.
|◄ Previous||Next ►|
|Astronomy Glossary: M||Magma|