Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2010 January 7
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

The Tail of the Small Magellanic Cloud
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / STScI

Explanation: A satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, the Small Magellanic Cloud is wonder of the southern sky, named for 16th century Portuguese circumnavigator Ferdinand Magellan. Some 200,000 light-years distant in the constellation Tucana, the small irregular galaxy's stars, gas, and dust that lie along a bar and extended "wing", are familiar in images from optical telescopes. But the galaxy also has a tail. Explored in this false-color, infrared mosaic from the Spitzer Space Telescope, the tail extends to the right of the more familiar bar and wing. Likely stripped from the galaxy by gravitational tides, the tail contains mostly gas, dust, and newly formed stars. Two clusters of newly formed stars, warming their surrounding natal dust clouds, are seen in the tail as red spots.

Note: An APOD editor will review astronomy images of 2009,
hosted by the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York on Friday, January 8 at the American Museum of Natural History, NYC.

Tomorrow's picture: the fading star mystery

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | RSS | Education | About APOD | Discuss | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
NASA Web Privacy Policy and Important Notices
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.