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Gaia’s view of Large Magellanic Cloud

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), one of the nearest galaxies to our Milky Way, as viewed by ESA’s Gaia satellite after its first 14 months of operations.

This view is not a photograph but was compiled by mapping the total density of stars detected by Gaia in each pixel. Image via ESA.

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is one of the nearest galaxies to our Milky Way galaxy. It’s located around 166,000 light-years away and visible to the naked eye at intermediate and southern latitudes.

With a mass roughly equivalent to ten billion times the mass of our sun – about one tenth of the Milky Way – the LMC is home to an intense star-forming activity, forming stars five time faster than in our galaxy.

The image above, based on data collected by the ESA’s Gaia satellite during its first 14 months of operations, shows the large scale distribution of stars in the LMC, clearly delineating the full extent of the spiral arms. It is peppered with bright dots – faint clusters of stars – and presents a series of diagonal stripes along the central thick structure, or bar, which are an artefact caused by Gaia’s scanning procedure and will gradually decrease as more data are gathered throughout the lifetime of the mission.

The Andromeda galaxy, or M31, the largest galactic neighbor to our Milky Way, as viewed by ESA’s Gaia satellite after its first 14 months of operations. These views are not photographs but were compiled by mapping the total density of stars (left) and the total amount of radiation, or flux (right), detected by Gaia in each pixel. On the left, the image based on the stellar density shows where stars of all types are located within the galaxy. On the right, the image based on the total flux mainly depicts the bright end of the stellar population of the galaxy, tracing out the regions of most intense star formation. Image via ESA.

Te European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia satellite launched in December 2013 and reached its orbit in January 2014. Gaia’s mission is to chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, in the process revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the galaxy. The first batch of Gaia data, released in 2016 and based on 14 months of science operations, contained the position and brightness of more than one billion stars. Most of these stars are located in the Milky Way, but a good fraction are extragalactic, with around ten million belonging to the LMC. The second release of Gaia data is planned for April 2018.

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Bottom line: View of the Large Magellanic Cloud by the ESA’s Gaia satellite.

See more images, and read more, from ESA

Eleanor Imster

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