The Small Magellanic Cloud in Universe Watch

Universe Watch talked yesterday about  the Large Magellanic Cloud….. and today we are looking at it’s smaller companion….  the Small Magellanic Cloud which is found in the same region of the night sky. Head on over to Universe Watch to see how you can look for it over Sydney tonight.


Small Magellanic Cloud

Small Magellanic Cloud ( Click to Enlarge)

I had talked yesterday about how the Large Magellanic Cloud was orbiting around the Milky Way…. and this was also going to be the case with the Small Magellinic Cloud as well. However this is not entirely correct and you will see astronomy books contradict each other over this based on how recent the books were published.


Several years ago, the Hubble Telescope took pictures measuring both the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds movements in comparision to background quasars in the distance. The Quasars were so distant they appeared all but stationery and were a good means of testing the speed of the clouds. Two years after those pictures were taken, more pictures were taken of the clouds which showed that the Large Magellanic Cloud was travelling at 382 km a second and the Small Magellanic Cloud was travelling at 302 km a second. This was twice as fast as they were originally thought to be travelling.

What this meant was that because of the speed that both the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Small Magellanic Cloud are travelling, they are moving way too fast to possibly be held in orbit by the Milky Way galaxy . So in a billion years or so they will most likely pass on by the Milky Way galaxy. And because of their speed in relation to each other, the two clouds will probably part company with each other in the distant future and go their own separate ways.

~ by sydneystargazers on October 19, 2009.

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