The Small Magellanic Cloud
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Small Magellanic Cloud
Top left is NE. Image width is about 3.4 degrees
Image and text © 2000-2010, Australian Astronomical Observatory
Photograph from UK Schmidt plates by David Malin.

The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is the second nearest galaxy to the Milky Way, (the LMC being the nearest) and is at the distance of about 240,000 light years in the constellation of Tucana, quite close enough for it to be resolved into individual stars on this colour picture made from plates taken on the UK Schmidt Telescope.

The shape of the SMC defies description and it is therefore classified as an 'irregular' galaxy. However, since galaxies show a strong tendency to be symmetrical and irregulars are rather rare we could be seeing first hand evidence of its recent tidal disruption by the combined effects of both our Galaxy and the LMC. Since the SMC is the least massive of the three it is the most likely member of this interacting trio to be seriously distorted by the encounter. The evidence is that the SMC is elongated more or less along our line of sight, as though we are looking into sausage-shaped galaxy from one end.

The large globular cluster at right is 47 Tucanae, while a smaller one at the top of the picture is NGC 362. It is about 30,000 light years distant, twice as far away as 47 Tuc. Click here for bigger image of the SMC.

Related images
AAT 76.    The globular cluster 47 Tucanae, NGC 104.
MISC 21.  The two Magellanic Clouds
UKS 17.    The Small Magellanic Cloud
Constellation of Tucana (external site)

For details of object position and photographic exposure, search technical table by UKS reference number.

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Updated by David Malin, 2010, July 25