Large Magellanic Cloud

Large Magellanic Cloud

Overview
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is a nearby irregular
Irregular galaxy
An irregular galaxy is a galaxy that does not have a distinct regular shape, like a spiral or an elliptical galaxy. The shape of an irregular galaxy is uncommon – they do not fall into any of the regular classes of the Hubble sequence, and they are often chaotic in appearance, with neither a...

 galaxy
Galaxy
A galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system that consists of stars and stellar remnants, an interstellar medium of gas and dust, and an important but poorly understood component tentatively dubbed dark matter. The word galaxy is derived from the Greek galaxias , literally "milky", a...

, and is a satellite
Satellite galaxy
A satellite galaxy orbits a larger galaxy due to gravitational attraction. Although a galaxy is made of a large number of objects which are not connected to each other, it has a center of mass, which represents a weighted average of the positions of each component object...

 of the Milky Way
Milky Way
The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Solar System. This name derives from its appearance as a dim un-resolved "milky" glowing band arching across the night sky...

. At a distance of slightly less than 50 kiloparsecs (≈160,000 light-year
Light-year
A light-year, also light year or lightyear is a unit of length, equal to just under 10 trillion kilometres...

s), the LMC is the third closest galaxy to the Milky Way, with the Sagittarius Dwarf Spheroidal
Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy
The Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy is an elliptical loop-shaped satellite galaxy of the Milky Way Galaxy. It consists of four globular clusters, the main cluster being discovered in 1994...

 (~ 16 kiloparsecs) and Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy
Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy
The Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy is located in the same part of the sky as the constellation Canis Major. The galaxy contains a relatively high percentage of red giant stars, and is thought to contain an estimated one billion stars in all....

 (~ 12.9 kiloparsecs) lying closer to the center of the Milky Way. It has a mass equivalent to approximately 10 billion times the mass of our Sun (1010 solar mass
Solar mass
The solar mass , , is a standard unit of mass in astronomy, used to indicate the masses of other stars and galaxies...

es), making it roughly 1/100 as massive as the Milky Way, and a diameter of about 14,000 light-years.
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Encyclopedia
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is a nearby irregular
Irregular galaxy
An irregular galaxy is a galaxy that does not have a distinct regular shape, like a spiral or an elliptical galaxy. The shape of an irregular galaxy is uncommon – they do not fall into any of the regular classes of the Hubble sequence, and they are often chaotic in appearance, with neither a...

 galaxy
Galaxy
A galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system that consists of stars and stellar remnants, an interstellar medium of gas and dust, and an important but poorly understood component tentatively dubbed dark matter. The word galaxy is derived from the Greek galaxias , literally "milky", a...

, and is a satellite
Satellite galaxy
A satellite galaxy orbits a larger galaxy due to gravitational attraction. Although a galaxy is made of a large number of objects which are not connected to each other, it has a center of mass, which represents a weighted average of the positions of each component object...

 of the Milky Way
Milky Way
The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Solar System. This name derives from its appearance as a dim un-resolved "milky" glowing band arching across the night sky...

. At a distance of slightly less than 50 kiloparsecs (≈160,000 light-year
Light-year
A light-year, also light year or lightyear is a unit of length, equal to just under 10 trillion kilometres...

s), the LMC is the third closest galaxy to the Milky Way, with the Sagittarius Dwarf Spheroidal
Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy
The Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy is an elliptical loop-shaped satellite galaxy of the Milky Way Galaxy. It consists of four globular clusters, the main cluster being discovered in 1994...

 (~ 16 kiloparsecs) and Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy
Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy
The Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy is located in the same part of the sky as the constellation Canis Major. The galaxy contains a relatively high percentage of red giant stars, and is thought to contain an estimated one billion stars in all....

 (~ 12.9 kiloparsecs) lying closer to the center of the Milky Way. It has a mass equivalent to approximately 10 billion times the mass of our Sun (1010 solar mass
Solar mass
The solar mass , , is a standard unit of mass in astronomy, used to indicate the masses of other stars and galaxies...

es), making it roughly 1/100 as massive as the Milky Way, and a diameter of about 14,000 light-years. The LMC is the fourth largest galaxy in the Local Group
Local Group
The Local Group is the group of galaxies that includes Earth's galaxy, the Milky Way. The group comprises more than 30 galaxies , with its gravitational center located somewhere between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy...

, the first, second and third largest places being taken by Andromeda Galaxy
Andromeda Galaxy
The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Andromeda. It is also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, and is often referred to as the Great Andromeda Nebula in older texts. Andromeda is the nearest spiral galaxy to the...

 (M31), our own Milky Way Galaxy, and the Triangulum Galaxy
Triangulum Galaxy
The Triangulum Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 3 million light years from Earth in the constellation Triangulum. It is catalogued as Messier 33 or NGC 598, and is sometimes informally referred to as the Pinwheel Galaxy, a nickname it shares with Messier 101...

 (M33), respectively.

While the LMC is often considered an irregular type galaxy (the NASA Extragalactic Database lists the Hubble sequence type as Irr/SB(s)m), the LMC contains a very prominent bar in its center, suggesting that it may have previously been a barred spiral galaxy. The LMC's irregular appearance is possibly the result of tidal interactions with both the Milky Way, and the Small Magellanic Cloud
Small Magellanic Cloud
The Small Magellanic Cloud is a dwarf galaxy. It has a diameter of about 7,000 light-years and contains several hundred million stars. It has a total mass of approximately 7 billion times the mass of our Sun....

 (SMC).

It is visible as a faint "cloud" in the night sky of the southern hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

 straddling the border between the constellation
Constellation
In modern astronomy, a constellation is an internationally defined area of the celestial sphere. These areas are grouped around asterisms, patterns formed by prominent stars within apparent proximity to one another on Earth's night sky....

s of Dorado
Dorado
Dorado is a constellation in the southern sky. It was created in the late 16th century and is now one of the 88 modern constellations. Its name refers to the dolphinfish , which is known as dorado in Spanish, although it has also been depicted as a swordfish...

 and Mensa
Mensa (constellation)
Mensa is a constellation in the southern sky, created in the 18th century. Its name is Latin for table. It covers a keystone-shaped wedge of sky stretching from approximately 4h to 7.5h of right ascension, and −71 to −85.5 degrees of declination. Other than the south polar constellation...

.

History


The very first recorded mention of the Large Magellanic Cloud was by the Persian astronomer
Islamic astronomy
Islamic astronomy or Arabic astronomy comprises the astronomical developments made in the Islamic world, particularly during the Islamic Golden Age , and mostly written in the Arabic language. These developments mostly took place in the Middle East, Central Asia, Al-Andalus, and North Africa, and...

, Al-Rahman Al Sufi (later known in Europe as "Azophi"), in his Book of Fixed Stars
Book of Fixed Stars
The Book of Fixed Stars is an astronomical text written by Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi around 964. The book was written in Arabic, although the author himself was Persian...

around 964 AD.

The next recorded observation was in 1503–4 by Amerigo Vespucci
Amerigo Vespucci
Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian explorer, financier, navigator and cartographer. The Americas are generally believed to have derived their name from the feminized Latin version of his first name.-Expeditions:...

 in a letter about his third voyage. In this letter he mentions "three Canopes, two bright and one obscure"; "bright" refers to the two Magellanic Clouds
Magellanic Clouds
The two Magellanic Clouds are irregular dwarf galaxies visible in the southern hemisphere, which are members of our Local Group and are orbiting our Milky Way galaxy...

, and "obscure" refers to the Coalsack.

Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer. He was born in Sabrosa, in northern Portugal, and served King Charles I of Spain in search of a westward route to the "Spice Islands" ....

 sighted the LMC on his voyage in 1519, and his writings brought the LMC into common Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 knowledge. The galaxy now bears his name.

Geometry


The Large Magellanic Cloud has a prominent central bar and a spiral arm. The central bar seems to be warped so that the east and west ends are nearer the Milky Way than the middle.

The LMC was long considered to be a planar galaxy that could be assumed to lie at a single distance from us. However, in 1986, Caldwell and Coulson found that field Cepheid variables in the northeast portion of the LMC lie closer to the Milky Way than Cepheids in the southwest portion. More recently, this inclined geometry for field stars in the LMC has been confirmed via observations of Cepheids, core helium-burning red clump stars and the tip of the red giant branch. All three of these papers find an inclination of ~35°, where a face-on galaxy has an inclination of 0°. Further work on the structure of the LMC using the kinematics of carbon stars showed that the LMC's disk is both thick and flared. Regarding the distribution of star clusters in the LMC, Schommer
Robert Schommer
Robert A. Schommer was an American observational astronomer. He was a professor at Rutgers University and later a project scientist for the U.S. office of the Gemini Observatory Project at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile...

 et al. measured velocities for ~80 clusters and found that the LMC's cluster system has kinematics consistent with the clusters moving in a disk-like distribution. These results were confirmed by Grocholski et al., who calculated distances to a number of clusters and showed that the LMC's cluster system is in fact distributed in the same plane as the field stars.

Distance



Determining a precise distance to the LMC, as with any other galaxy, was challenging due to the use of standard candles for calculating distances, with the primary problem being that many of the standard candles are not as 'standard' as one would like; in many cases, the age and/or metallicity
Metallicity
In astronomy and physical cosmology, the metallicity of an object is the proportion of its matter made up of chemical elements other than hydrogen and helium...

 of the standard candle plays a role in determining the intrinsic luminosity of the object. The distance to the LMC has been calculated using a variety of standard candles, with Cepheid variables being one of the most popular. Cepheids have been shown to have a relationship between their absolute luminosity and the period over which their brightness varies. However, Cepheids appear to suffer from a metallicity effect, where Cepheids of different metallicities have different period-luminosity relations. Unfortunately, the Cepheids in the Milky Way typically used to calibrate the period-luminosity relation are more metal rich than those found in the LMC.

In the era of 8-meter-class telescopes, eclipsing binaries have been found throughout the Local Group
Local Group
The Local Group is the group of galaxies that includes Earth's galaxy, the Milky Way. The group comprises more than 30 galaxies , with its gravitational center located somewhere between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy...

. Parameters of these systems can be measured without mass or compositional assumptions. The light echoes of supernova 1987A
SN 1987A
SN 1987A was a supernova in the outskirts of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby dwarf galaxy. It occurred approximately 51.4 kiloparsecs from Earth, approximately 168,000 light-years, close enough that it was visible to the naked eye. It could be seen from the Southern...

 are also geometric measurements, without any stellar models or assumptions.

Recently, the Cepheid absolute luminosity has been re-calibrated using Cepheid variables in the galaxy NGC 4258 that cover a range of metallicities. Using this improved calibration, they find an absolute distance modulus of 18.41, or 48 kpc (~157,000 light years). This distance, which is slightly shorter than the typically assumed distance of 50 kpc, has been confirmed by other authors.

By cross-correlating different measurement methods, one can bound the distance; the residual errors are now less than the estimated size parameters of the LMC. Further work involves measuring the position of a target star or star system within the galaxy (i.e., toward or away from the observer).

Features


Like many irregular galaxies
Irregular galaxy
An irregular galaxy is a galaxy that does not have a distinct regular shape, like a spiral or an elliptical galaxy. The shape of an irregular galaxy is uncommon – they do not fall into any of the regular classes of the Hubble sequence, and they are often chaotic in appearance, with neither a...

, the LMC is rich in gas and dust, and it is currently undergoing vigorous star formation
Star formation
Star formation is the process by which dense parts of molecular clouds collapse into a ball of plasma to form a star. As a branch of astronomy star formation includes the study of the interstellar medium and giant molecular clouds as precursors to the star formation process and the study of young...

 activity. It is home to the Tarantula Nebula
Tarantula Nebula
The Tarantula Nebula is an H II region in the Large Magellanic Cloud . It was originally thought to be a star, but in 1751 Nicolas Louis de Lacaille recognized its nebular nature....

, the most active star-forming region in the Local Group.

The LMC is full of a wide range of galactic objects and phenomena that make it aptly known as an "astronomical treasure-house, a great celestial laboratory for the study of the growth and evolution of the stars," as described by Robert Burnham, Jr.
Robert Burnham, Jr.
Robert Burnham, Jr. was an American astronomer. He is best known for writing the classic three-volume Burnham's Celestial Handbook.-Early work:...

 Surveys of the galaxy have found roughly 60 globular clusters, 400 planetary nebulae, and 700 open clusters, along with hundreds of thousands of giant
Giant star
A giant star is a star with substantially larger radius and luminosity than a main sequence star of the same surface temperature. Typically, giant stars have radii between 10 and 100 solar radii and luminosities between 10 and 1,000 times that of the Sun. Stars still more luminous than giants are...

 and supergiant
Supergiant
Supergiants are among the most massive stars. They occupy the top region of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. In the Yerkes spectral classification, supergiants are class Ia or Ib . They typically have bolometric absolute magnitudes between -5 and -12...

 stars. Supernova 1987a—the nearest supernova
Supernova
A supernova is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. It is pronounced with the plural supernovae or supernovas. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months...

 in recent years—was also located in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The Lionel-Murphy SNR is nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

-abundant supernova remnant
Supernova remnant
A supernova remnant is the structure resulting from the explosion of a star in a supernova. The supernova remnant is bounded by an expanding shock wave, and consists of ejected material expanding from the explosion, and the interstellar material it sweeps up and shocks along the way.There are two...

 (SNR) N86 in the Large Magellanic Cloud named by astronomers at the Australian National University
Australian National University
The Australian National University is a teaching and research university located in the Australian capital, Canberra.As of 2009, the ANU employs 3,945 administrative staff who teach approximately 10,000 undergraduates, and 7,500 postgraduate students...

's Mount Stromlo Observatory
Mount Stromlo Observatory
Mount Stromlo Observatory located just outside of Canberra, Australia, is part of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University .-History:...

 in acknowledgement of Australian High Court Justice Lionel Murphy
Lionel Murphy
Lionel Keith Murphy, QC was an Australian politician and jurist who served as Attorney-General in the government of Gough Whitlam and as a Justice of the High Court of Australia from 1975 until his death.- Personal life :...

's interest in science and because of SNR N86's perceived resemblance to his large nose.

There is a bridge of gas connecting the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) with the LMC, which is evidence of tidal interaction between both galaxies. The Magellanic Clouds have a common envelope of neutral hydrogen indicating they have been gravitationally bound for a long time. This bridge of gas is a star forming site.

X-ray sources


No X-rays above background were observed from the Magellanic Clouds during the September 20, 1966, Nike Tomahawk flight. A second Nike Tomahawk rocket was launched from Johnston Atoll
Johnston Atoll
Johnston Atoll is a atoll in the North Pacific Ocean about west of Hawaii. There are four islands located on the coral reef platform, two natural islands, Johnston Island and Sand Island, which have been expanded by coral dredging, as well as North Island and East Island , an additional two...

 on September 22, 1966, at 17:13 UTC and reached an apogee of 160 km, with spin-stabilization at 5.6 rps. The LMC was not detected in the X-ray range 8-80 keV.

Another Nike Tomahawk was launched from Johnston Atoll at 11:32 UTC on October 29, 1968, to scan the LMC for X-rays. The first discrete X-ray source in Dorado was at RA
Right ascension
Right ascension is the astronomical term for one of the two coordinates of a point on the celestial sphere when using the equatorial coordinate system. The other coordinate is the declination.-Explanation:...

  Dec
Declination
In astronomy, declination is one of the two coordinates of the equatorial coordinate system, the other being either right ascension or hour angle. Declination in astronomy is comparable to geographic latitude, but projected onto the celestial sphere. Declination is measured in degrees north and...

 , and it was the Large Magellanic Cloud. This X-ray source extended over about 12° and is consistent with the Cloud. Its emission rate between 1.5-10.5 keV for a distance of 50 kpc is 4 x 1038 ergs/s. An X-ray astronomy
X-ray astronomy
X-ray astronomy is an observational branch of astronomy which deals with the study of X-ray observation and detection from astronomical objects. X-radiation is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so instruments to detect X-rays must be taken to high altitude by balloons, sounding rockets, and...

 instrument was carried aboard a Thor missile launched from Johnston Atoll
Johnston Atoll
Johnston Atoll is a atoll in the North Pacific Ocean about west of Hawaii. There are four islands located on the coral reef platform, two natural islands, Johnston Island and Sand Island, which have been expanded by coral dredging, as well as North Island and East Island , an additional two...

 on September 24, 1970, at 12:54 UTC and altitudes above 300 km, to search for the Small Magellanic Cloud
Small Magellanic Cloud
The Small Magellanic Cloud is a dwarf galaxy. It has a diameter of about 7,000 light-years and contains several hundred million stars. It has a total mass of approximately 7 billion times the mass of our Sun....

 and to extend previous observations of the LMC. The source in the LMC appeared extended and contained the star ε Dor. The X-ray luminosity (Lx) over the range 1.5–12 keV was 6 × 1031 W (6 × 1038 erg/s).

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is in the constellations Mensa
Mensa (constellation)
Mensa is a constellation in the southern sky, created in the 18th century. Its name is Latin for table. It covers a keystone-shaped wedge of sky stretching from approximately 4h to 7.5h of right ascension, and −71 to −85.5 degrees of declination. Other than the south polar constellation...

 and Dorado. LMC X-1 (the first X-ray source in the LMC) is at RA
Right ascension
Right ascension is the astronomical term for one of the two coordinates of a point on the celestial sphere when using the equatorial coordinate system. The other coordinate is the declination.-Explanation:...

  Dec
Declination
In astronomy, declination is one of the two coordinates of the equatorial coordinate system, the other being either right ascension or hour angle. Declination in astronomy is comparable to geographic latitude, but projected onto the celestial sphere. Declination is measured in degrees north and...

 , and is a high mass X-ray binary source (HMXB). Of the first five luminous LMC X-ray binaries: LMC X-1, X-2, X-3, X-4, and A 0538-66 (detected by Ariel 5 at A 0538-66); LMC X-2 is the only one that is a bright low-mass X-ray binary system (LMXB) in the LMC.
DEM L316 in the Large Magellanic Cloud consists of two supernove remnants. Chandra
Chandra X-ray Observatory
The Chandra X-ray Observatory is a satellite launched on STS-93 by NASA on July 23, 1999. It was named in honor of Indian-American physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who is known for determining the maximum mass for white dwarfs. "Chandra" also means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit.Chandra...

 X-ray spectra show that the hot gas shell on the upper left contains a high abundance of iron. This implies that the upper left SNR
Supernova remnant
A supernova remnant is the structure resulting from the explosion of a star in a supernova. The supernova remnant is bounded by an expanding shock wave, and consists of ejected material expanding from the explosion, and the interstellar material it sweeps up and shocks along the way.There are two...

 is the product of a Type Ia supernova
Type Ia supernova
A Type Ia supernova is a sub-category of supernovae, which in turn are a sub-category of cataclysmic variable stars, that results from the violent explosion of a white dwarf star. A white dwarf is the remnant of a star that has completed its normal life cycle and has ceased nuclear fusion...

. The much lower iron abundance in the lower SNR indicates a Type II supernova
Type II supernova
A Type II supernova results from the rapid collapse and violent explosion of a massive star. A star must have at least 9 times, and no more than 40–50 times the mass of the Sun for this type of explosion. It is distinguished from other types of supernova by the presence of hydrogen in its spectrum...

.

A 16 ms X-ray pulsar is associated with SNR 0538-69.1. SNR 0540-697 was resolved using ROSAT
ROSAT
ROSAT was a German Aerospace Center-led satellite X-ray telescope, with instruments built by Germany, the UK and the US...

.

View from the LMC


From a viewpoint in the LMC, the Milky Way would be a spectacular sight. The galaxy's total apparent magnitude
Apparent magnitude
The apparent magnitude of a celestial body is a measure of its brightness as seen by an observer on Earth, adjusted to the value it would have in the absence of the atmosphere...

 would be −2.0—over 14 times brighter than the LMC appears to us on Earth—and it would span about 36°
Degree (angle)
A degree , usually denoted by ° , is a measurement of plane angle, representing 1⁄360 of a full rotation; one degree is equivalent to π/180 radians...

 across the sky, which is the width of over 70 full moon
Full moon
Full moon lunar phase that occurs when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. More precisely, a full moon occurs when the geocentric apparent longitudes of the Sun and Moon differ by 180 degrees; the Moon is then in opposition with the Sun.Lunar eclipses can only occur at...

s. Furthermore, because of the LMC's high galactic latitude
Galactic coordinate system
The galactic coordinate system is a celestial coordinate system which is centered on the Sun and is aligned with the apparent center of the Milky Way galaxy. The "equator" is aligned to the galactic plane...

, an observer there would get an oblique view of the entire galaxy, free from the interference of interstellar dust which makes studying in the Milky Way's plane difficult from Earth. The Small Magellanic Cloud
Small Magellanic Cloud
The Small Magellanic Cloud is a dwarf galaxy. It has a diameter of about 7,000 light-years and contains several hundred million stars. It has a total mass of approximately 7 billion times the mass of our Sun....

would be about magnitude 0.6, substantially brighter than the LMC appears to us.

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