This Magellanic Cloud Is a Tiny Galaxy Sat Close to Our Milky Way

By Jamie Condliffe on at

It may look like a contorted Van Gogh painting that’s been run through Google’s dreaming neural networks, but you’re actually looking at an image of one of the Magellanic Clouds—which is among the nearest companions of our Milky Way galaxy.

The Magellanic clouds—first discovered by European astronomers in the 16th Century—are known as Dwarf Galaxies. Here, you can see the larger cloud in the centre, unsurprisingly called the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is about 160 000 light-years away from Earth and has a mass around ten billion times that of our Sun. That may sounds a lot, but it’s at least ten times smaller than our own Milky Way.

This image actually shows the concentration of stellar dust in the Magellanic clouds along with how closely aligned their magnetic fields are to the Universe. The ESA explains what you can see:

This image combines a visualisation of the total intensity of dust emission, shown in the colour scale, with an indication of the magnetic field’s orientation, represented by the texture. Blue hues correspond to regions with little dust, while the yellow and red areas reflect denser (and mostly hotter) clouds containing larger amounts of dust, as well as gas.