Here’s the Most Detailed Photo Yet of the Milky Way’s Nearest Satellite Galaxy

Here’s the Most Detailed Photo Yet of the Milky Way’s Nearest Satellite Galaxy
Image: CSIRO

Researchers at the Australian National University and the CSIRO have captured an image of a Milky Way neighbour in incredible detail, said to be one of the clearest photos ever of the Small Magellanic Cloud.

No doubt you saw the image above – it’s a beautiful shot of the nearest satellite galaxy to the Milky Way – the Small Magellanic Cloud. That’s the name we’ve given this system of hydrogen in particular and is not to be confused with the Large Magellanic Cloud. It’s an irregular dwarf galaxy containing several hundred million stars.

“The clarity of this image is unprecedented,” says Dr. Nickolas Pingel, the lead author of the study.

“We’re able to see all of the small-scale structures for first time. It’s an important step in understanding the role hydrogen plays in the evolution of galaxies.”

Dr. Pingel added that it’s the clearest picture we’ve ever snapped of hydrogen emitting from the Small Magellanic Cloud. For snapping the photo, the team used the CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope, which is comprised of 36 dish antennas. 100 hours of data were used in processing the photo.

Small Magellanic Cloud photo
Image: CSIRO

Given the Small Magellanic Cloud is the closest galactic neighbour to the Milky Way, it makes a lot of sense for us to be snapping it as often as possible – photos of the Small Magellanic Cloud aren’t new, but this snap is the most detailed, indicating what the next step of the journey is for the team behind it.

“This specific image was part of a pilot survey,” Dr Pingel added.

“Over the next year we are going to collect more observations. Eventually, we’ll be able to connect them and make a giant mosaic which will show how this galaxy connects to its nearby neighbours.”

If you’d like to give the study a gander, you can read up on it here.