VISTA – the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope – has provided an unprecedented view of the Small Magellanic Cloud. Its cameras have been able to pierce vast clouds of gas and dust to bring us a 1.6 Gigapixel (43 223 x 38 236 pixels) image of the SMC that you can view right here.
Head over to the site, pick a quadrant of sky, and zoom in to produce remarkable never before seen images such as the one we’ve created below.
The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), or Nebucula Minor, is a dwarf galaxy near the Milky Way. It is classified as a dwarf irregular galaxy. It has a diameter of about 7,000 light-years, contains several hundred million stars, and has a total mass of approximately 7 billion times the mass of the Sun. The SMC contains a central bar structure and it is speculated that it was once a barred spiral galaxy that was disrupted by the Milky Way to become somewhat irregular. At a distance of about 200,000 light-years, it is one of the Milky Way’s nearest neighbors. It is also one of the most distant objects that can be seen with the naked eye.
The work was initially publishedin the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. VISTA will help to provide details into the star formation of the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, and help to build three-dimensional maps of the two galaxies.