Magellanic Clouds Once Had A Third Companion Galaxy

Posted: Sep 19 2018, 11:38pm CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Magellanic Clouds Once had a Third Companion Galaxy
The Large Magellanic Cloud photographed using a modified DSLR camera. Credit: Andrew Lockwood

New study suggests that Large Magellanic Cloud have undergone a merger with another galaxy in the past.

Researchers have deduced that two satellite galaxies to Milky Way, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, may have had a third companion billions of years ago. Even though that companion galaxy no longer exists, it left behind a pretty good trail of evidence: a small population of stars that rotate anti-clockwise. Researchers say that most clouds in the Large Magellanic Cloud rotate clockwise around the center of the galaxy but some rotate in the opposite direction to those stars. Researchers initially believed that these stars were part of the Small Magellanic Cloud.

“For a while, it was thought that these stars might have come from its companion galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud. Our idea was that these stars might have come from a merger with another galaxy in the past.” Lead author Benjamin Armstrong from the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) said in a statement.

When researchers used computer modeling to simulate galaxy merger, they were able to piece together what had happened.

“What we found is that in this sort of merging event, you actually can get quite strong counter-rotation after a merger takes place,” said Armstrong. “This is consistent with what we see when we actually observe the galaxies.”

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are two massive clouds of gas and dust that orbit our galaxy and can be seen in the night sky with naked eye. The Large Magellanic Cloud is located 160,000 light-years from the Milky Way, while the neighboring Small Magellanic Cloud is about 200,000 light-years away. Both starry regions have been classified as irregular type galaxies. Aside from their unique structure, they are different from other galaxies in another major way. Magellanic Clouds are made up of star populations that range from very young to the very old. The phenomenon is known as the ‘age-gap’ problem and is another indication that these galaxies may have undergone collision in some stage of their life.

“In galaxies, there are these large objects called star clusters. Star clusters contain many, many, many stars that are all of the quite similar ages and made in similar environments. In the Milky Way, the star clusters are all very old. But in the Large Magellanic Cloud, we have very old clusters as well as ones that are very young – but nothing in between,” said Armstrong. “Because in the Large Magellanic Cloud we see star formation starting again, that could be indicative of a galaxy merger taking place.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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