This Is How The Milky Way Is Eating Our Galact…

This Is How The Milky Way Is Eating Our Galactic Neighbors

“New star formation is triggered by mutual gravitational interactions combined with the Milky Way’s tug.

The gas within these galaxies gets shunted into new clusters, including the local group’s largest star-forming region: 30 Doradus.

But these gravitational interactions also strip the gas away from these dwarfs, where the Milky Way will devour it.

The largest gas stream seems to connect both galaxies, but which cloud it originated from was a mystery.

Until, that is, scientists led by Andrew Fox looked at the absorption effects of this gas from background quasar light.”

While the visible Universe extends for tens of billions of light years, our local group of galaxies extends for only a few million. Around our own Milky Way are a handful of dwarf galaxies, including two bright ones: the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. These two galaxies contain large numbers of young stars, show evidence of hot, glowing gas, and are destined to be devoured by our Milky Way in cosmically short order. But until that happens, they’re engaged in a cosmic tug-of-war with one another, battling to expel the gas from each other and capture it for themselves. Because the Milky Way is nearby, the expelled gas is getting stretched and drawn into our own galaxy, but which cloud, the Large or the Small, did it arise from?

Owing to new work by a Hubble team led by Andrew Fox, we finally know it’s the Small Magellanic Cloud. Here’s how, and here’s what it means for science.