Home > Astronomy, Astrophysics, Dark Energy & Matter, Galaxies, General Astronomy > Galactic Thief: “I Would Have Gotten Away With It, If It Weren’t For Those Meddling Astronomers”

Galactic Thief: “I Would Have Gotten Away With It, If It Weren’t For Those Meddling Astronomers”


One of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way almost got away with theft. However, new simulations convicted the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) of stealing stars from its neighbor, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). And the crucial evidence came from surveys looking for something entirely different – dark objects on the outskirts of the Milky Way.

Astronomers have been monitoring the LMC to hunt for evidence of massive compact halo objects, or MACHOs. MACHOs were thought to be faint objects, roughly the mass of a star, but their exact nature was unknown. Several surveys looked for MACHOs in order to find out if they could be a major component of dark matter – the unseen stuff that holds galaxies together.

“We originally set out to understand the evolution of the interacting LMC and SMC galaxies,” explains lead author Gurtina Besla of Columbia University. “We were surprised that, in addition, we could rule out the idea that dark matter is contained in MACHOs.” “Instead of MACHOs, a trail of stars removed from the SMC is responsible for the microlensing events,” says co-author Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “You could say we discovered a crime of galactic proportions,” he adds.

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2012/pr201230.html

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