NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has captured an action-packed picture of the nearby Small Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy that looks like a wispy cloud when seen from Earth.
From Spitzer's perch up in space, the galaxy's clouds of dust and stars come into clear view. The telescope's infrared vision reveals choppy piles of recycled stardust -- dust that is being soaked up by new star systems and blown out by old ones.
To some people, the new view might resemble a sea creature, or even a Rorschach inkblot test. But to astronomers, it offers a unique opportunity to study the whole life cycle of stars close-up. ...
Recent research has shown that the galaxies may not, as previously suspected, orbit around the Milky Way. Instead, they are thought to be merely sailing by, destined to go their own way. Astronomers say the two galaxies, which are both less evolved than a galaxy like ours, were triggered to create bursts of new stars by gravitational interactions with the Milky Way and with each other. In fact, the Large Magellanic Cloud may eventually consume its smaller companion.
Small Magellanic Cloud – click for 1500×1350 image
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