The Milky Way Galaxy has its own set of satellites - two relatively small galaxies with irregular shapes and packed with their own stars and presumably planets and, yes, moons. 



 

 


The Milky Way Galaxy has its own set of satellites - two relatively small galaxies with irregular shapes and packed with their own stars and presumably planets and, yes, moons.

  They are commonly referred to as the “Magellanic Clouds,” named for the great 16th-century explorer Ferdinand Magellan.   ?I truly would like to tell you where to find them in the sky, but it would only do good if you were “down under.”?   The Magellanic Clouds are visible from only the Southern Hemisphere. I’ve never been that far south; perhaps a reader has seen them and would send us a report.   The Magellanic Clouds appear as dim patches of light, like detached pieces of the Milky Way Band, requiring a dark, clear night. Unlike an earthly cloud, these move not with the wind, but round the sky with the stars, as the Earth spins.?   The October 2012 issue of Sky and Telescope Magazine had an interesting story on the Magellanic Clouds. It states that recent studies have shown that they might not be satellites at all, but are just passing us by from far away. Some researchers postulate that they may have been ejected from the Andromeda Galaxy eons ago. If not orbiting the Milky Way now, they might find they like us and stay awhile - as the Milky Way’s gravity pulls them into orbital loops.?   Some suspect they were once one but went their separate ways. Another theory is that the clouds will end up getting much too friendly and be absorbed by the Milky Way. Now that would be pretty to see.?   Radio telescopes have discovered a great arc of gas bridging the two Magellanic Clouds and stretched out in a long band across almost half the sky - invisible to unaided eyes.?   They’re moving fast - around 750,000 mph - but given their immense distance, astronomers can barely detect their motion. They vary in size; the Large Magellanic Cloud is about 32,000 light years wide and some 160,000 light years distant. The Small Magellanic Cloud is around 13,000 light years across and about 200,000 light years away. In comparison, our Milky Way is approximately 1.6 million light years across. The clouds are about 75,000 light years apart.?   Send your notes to news@neagle.com. Where do you read this column?   ?First-quarter moon is on Oct. 21.?

Keep looking up!