Seen from the southern skies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (the LMC and SMC, respectively) are bright patches in the sky. Image credit: ESO/S. Brunier
A pair of dwarf galaxies closely circling the Milky Way, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, were in the throes of merging into one when they fell into our galaxy. The duo is thought to hold enough gas to replenish half of the Milky Way’s supply of star-making fuel, and now, a study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society offers new insights into how galaxies like ours are able to capture this gas so easily.
“You have this enormous reserve of star formation fuel sitting there ready to be stripped by another system,” says Mary Putman, an astronomer at Columbia University, New York, United States.
Home to millions of stars, dwarf galaxies are outshined by bigger galaxies like the Milky Way with hundreds to thousands of times more stars. But what dwarf galaxies lack in brightness, they make up for in their sheer abundance of star-making fuel. The hydrogen gas swirling through the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds and dwarf galaxies like them are thought to play a key role in ...