Dwarf Galaxy Surrounded By Small Streams And Debris

First Posted: Nov 25, 2015 01:54 PM EST

Astronomers have detected several small streams and diffuse debris clouds, which surrounds two odd dwarf galaxies known as the Magellanic Clouds. One of the dwarf galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), could be bigger than previously thought, according to a study at the University of Cambridge, in the UK.

"Even though a prominent gaseous stream emanating from the clouds has been known and studied for some time, no obvious stellar streams had been found until recently," Vasily Belokurov, a co-author of the co-author of the study, said in a news release.

The researchers used the Dark Energy Survey (DES) to detect the stellar debris on the outskirts on the dwarf galaxies. The researchers made the detection while they were searching for the Magellanic stellar halo substructure, where blue horizontal-branch (BHB) stars were used as tracers. BHBs are old stars that have low metal levels and they are fueled by helium fusion, which appears blue.

By scanning BHBs, the researchers were able to find the stellar halo of the Magellanic system and its substructures. This finding caused the researchers to reconsider previous data about LMC's mass, showing that LMC is probably greater in size than previously thought.

"Our discoveries imply that the Large Magellanic Cloud might have been a lot more massive than we previously thought," Belokurov said. "To figure out exactly how much more massive, we need to follow these streams up with spectroscopy in order to measure their velocities."

The researchers think that it is possible for this galaxy to merge with the crowded Milky Way galaxy, which could be critical.

The findings of this study were published in ArXiv.

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