Glossary term: Magellanic clouds

Description: The Magellanic Clouds are two galaxies orbiting the Milky Way. The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is about 14,000 light-years across and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is about 7,000 light-years across. The SMC is an irregular galaxy but the LMC may have had a spiral structure before being disrupted by tidal forces from the Milky Way's gravity. Both galaxies are visible as faint glows with the naked eye. These galaxies have been known for millennia by the peoples of equatorial and southern regions of the Earth who gave them many names. Medieval Islamic astronomers knew of them from travellers' stories. Their European name comes from Ferdinand Magellan, on whose voyages some of the first European observations of these galaxies were made.

Related Terms:

See this term in other languages

Term and definition status: This term and its definition is still awaiting approval

The OAE Multilingual Glossary is a project of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE) in collaboration with the IAU Office of Astronomy Outreach (OAO). The terms and definitions were chosen, written and reviewed by a collective effort from the OAE, the OAE Centers and Nodes, the OAE National Astronomy Education Coordinators (NAECs) and other volunteers. You can find a full list of credits here. All glossary terms and their definitions are released under a Creative Commons CC BY-4.0 license and should be credited to "IAU OAE".