Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day we feature a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

September 19, 1995

The Small Cloud of Magellan
Credit: Photograph made from plates taken with the UK Schmidt Telescope. Color photography by David Malin.
Copyright: Anglo-Australian Telescope Board

Explanation: Almost unknown to casual observers in the northern hemisphere, the southern sky contains two diffuse wonders known as the Magellanic Clouds. The Magellanic Clouds are small irregular galaxies orbiting our own larger Milky Way spiral galaxy. The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), pictured here, is about 250,000 light years away and contains a preponderance of young, hot, blue stars indicating it has undergone a recent period of star formation. There is evidence that the SMC is actually two galaxies superposed to appear as one. The bright blob near the right hand edge of the frame is a globular cluster near the outskirts of the Milky Way.

Tomorrow's picture: GL 105C: The Coolest Star?

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