Dec 3, 2020 - Science

A deep look at two nearby galaxies

The Large and Small Magellanic clouds shining in blue and red

The Large (left) and Small (right) Magellanic Clouds. Photos: CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/SMASH

The depths of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds — satellite galaxies of our own Milky Way — can be seen in new photos taken by a dark energy camera.

Why it matters: The images could reveal never-before-known details about our galactic neighbors — and insights into how other dwarf galaxies evolve.

Details: The Survey of the MAgellanic Stellar History's (SMASH), the most extensive study so far of the clouds, released the images this week.

  • "These satellite galaxies have been studied for decades, but SMASH is being used to map out their structure over their full, enormous extent and help solve the mystery of their formation," David Nidever, SMASH's principal investigator, said in a statement.
  • The full SMASH survey took about 50 nights of observatory time and covers an area 2,400 times larger than the full Moon, according to a statement from NOIRLab, an astronomy organization operated by the National Science Foundation.
  • The images were taken by the Dark Energy Camera in Chile which has a wide field of view that allowed the researchers to get a good look at the relatively nearby galaxies.

1 fun thing: The data gathered by SMASH has already revealed that the two clouds collided with one another in the past, setting off a burst of star formation.

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