Magellanic Clouds

May 13, 2009


Photographer: Alex Tudorica
Summary Authors: Alex Tudorica; Jim Foster

The photo above shows the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds as photographed from the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, in mid-April of this year. These lacteous clouds are satellite galaxies to the Milky Way. They’ve easily visible as naked eye objects, astride the constellation of Hydrus, but only from latitudes south of about 15 degrees north latitude. In several ways this far away duo (the Large Magellanic Cloud is nearly 160,000 light years away and the Small Magellanic Cloud is about 190,000 light-years distant) is nearly ideal for testing theories about stellar evolution. They contain myriad stars having considerable differences in luminosity but at nearly the same distance from us. Though they’re named after Ferdinand Magellan, who observed them on his voyages in the early 1500s, they were initially described as early as 964. Note that the long exposure exaggerates headlights along the mountainous roadway as well as city lights on the horizon.

Photo Details: Canon Rebel XTi camera; 17 mm lens at 2.8; ISO 1600; 2 minute exposure.