Hubble Finds Source Of Magellanic Stream


Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have solved a 40-year mystery on the origin of the Magellanic Stream, a long ribbon of gas stretching nearly halfway around our Milky Way galaxy.

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, are at the head of the gaseous stream. Since the stream’s discovery by radio telescopes in the early 1970s, astronomers have wondered whether the gas comes from one or both of the satellite galaxies. Now, new Hubble observations reveal that most of the gas was stripped from the Small Magellanic Cloud about 2 billion years ago, and a second region of the stream originated more recently from the Large Magellanic Cloud.

“What’s interesting is that all the other nearby satellite galaxies of the Milky Way have lost their gas,” Andrew J. Fox (of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md). said. “The Magellanic Clouds have been able to retain their gas and are still forming stars because they’re more massive than the other satellites. However, as they’re now approaching the Milky Way, they’re feeling its gravity more and also encountering its halo of hot gas, which puts pressure on them.”

Full Story and Images: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/27/full/

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