We have always known that the universe is vast. Despite this vastness, we do have neighbours not only in terms of planets, moons and stars but also in terms of galaxies. The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) happens to be one of our nearest galactic neighbours that is around 163,000 lightyears away from the Earth. Along with the Small Magellanic Cloud, the LMC is the nearest dwarf satellite galaxies to our Milky Way.
Recently, the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) VISTA telescope revealed a new brighter image of the LMC. The VISTA telescope has been observing both the dwarf galaxies – LMC and Small Magellanic Cloud, from the last 10 years. The latest image is a result of one of the multiple surveys that space scientists have performed with the help of this telescope.
The VISTA telescope has helped the astronomers to map the star formation history of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, as well as their 3D structures. The new image is taken in near-infrared wavelength which cuts through dust clouds that would otherwise obscure the parts of the galaxy. Due to this, many more of the individual stars populating the centre of the galaxy are clearly visible.
In a statement, ESO said that the astronomers were able to analyse 10 million individual stars in the LMC, they were able to determine their age and other details through stellar models. They discovered that multiple spiral arms in the galaxy are composed of younger stars.
For a thousand years, the Magellanic Clouds have fascinated people in the Southern Hemisphere, however, they were largely unknown to Europeans until the Age of Discovery.
The name that is used by us today goes back to explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who began the first circumnavigation of the Earth over 500 years ago. The records which the expedition brought back to Europe revealed many places and things to Europeans for the first time.