New VISTA of our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud

Astronomers have been using one of the world’s most powerful ground-based telescopes to keep an eye on our galactic neighbour the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Published: October 20, 2019 at 4:14 pm
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An image of the Large Magellanic Cloud captured by the VISTA telescope. Credit: ESO/VMC Survey

There’s a lot going on in the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our nearest galactic neighbours. And the astronomers at the European Southern Observatory have been tasked with figuring out exactly what’s happening.

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They’re using the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, or VISTA (a modified Ritchey-Chrétien telescope with a 4.1m-wide main mirror, at the Cerro Paranal site in Chile), to keep a close eye on our neighbour and, in the process, have captured this magnificent image.

The Large Magellanic Cloud floats around 200,000 lightyears from the Milky Way and the constant activity inside is due to it being home to vast clouds of dust and gas that are continuously merging and collapsing under gravity to form new stars.

VISTA allows astronomers to observe the Large Magellanic Cloud, and its sibling the Small Magellanic Cloud, as well as their surroundings, in unprecedented detail.

It’s enabling the scientists to study stellar evolution, galactic dynamics and variable stars within our neighbouring galaxies.

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Image credit: ESO/VMC Survey

Authors

Before going freelance, Rob spent almost four years on staff at BBC Science Focus magazine subediting news, features and reviews. He's now a freelance journalist and has written about everything from electric cars to decomposing bodies… although space and speed are what fascinate him most.

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