The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC)

I had some fun over the weekend with a new toy I bought a few months ago, the iOptron Star Tracker. Essentially it is a special mount that screws on to your tripod, and you align it to the equatorial pole. You then attach your camera to the mount and you can begin to take long exposures of the night sky without the stars streaking across the frame. This allows you to gather more light and expose hidden jewels in the sky that you would not normally see with your naked eyes or even most telescopes for that matter.

 

LMC ioptron 

Above is the Large Magellanic Cloud and under very dark skies the LMC will look like a cloud or a whitish patch in the sky (see below), and this is exactly what Antonio Pigafetta (the first European to record its existence), who accompanied the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan on its circumnavigation of the world in 1519-1522 thought it was, well not really, but he didn’t know it was a galaxy either, nobody knew about galaxies for another 3 or 4 centuries. What Antonio did know was that unlike other clouds, it was always there in the night sky and only visible from the Southern Hemisphere.

 

Turon River Pano

 

As far as astronomers know and agree on today the LMC is the 3rd nearest galaxy to our own, the Milky Way. The closest being ‘Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy’ and then ‘Sagittarius Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy’. These two are not as obvious as is the LMC in the night sky. Actually I am yet to see them myself.

 

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