This view of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is a mosaic of four pictures from the European Southern Observatory’s Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.
The Large Magellanic cloud is a near neighbor of our own Milky Way galaxy, just about 160,000 light-years away from our own Milky Way, and one of the galaxies forming the Local Group that surrounds us.
Although immense on a human scale, the Large Magellanic Cloud is less than one tenth the mass of our home galaxy and spans just 14,000 light-years compared to about 100,000 light-years for the Milky Way. It is classified as an irregular dwarf galaxy. As the ESO explains, “its irregularity, combined with its prominent central bar of stars suggests to astronomers that tidal interactions with the Milky Way and fellow Local Group galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud, could have distorted its shape from a classic barred spiral into its modern, more chaotic form.”
This image “covers a region of sky more than four times as large as the full Moon. The huge field of view of this camera makes it possible to see a very wide range of objects in the LMC in a single picture, although only a small part of the entire galaxy can be included. Dozens of clusters of young stars can be seen as well as traces of glowing gas clouds. Huge numbers of faint stars fill the image from edge to edge and in the background, more galaxies, far beyond the LMC, are visible.”
For more information, visit the European Southern Observatory’s website here.