For decades, astronomers assumed that the Magellanic Clouds were gravitationally bound to the Milky Way, orbiting our galaxy many times over the past 10 billion or more years.
But recent Hubble Space Telescope observations strongly suggest that the Clouds have only recently been captured by our galaxy, if they have been captured at all. In the October 2012 issue of Sky & Telescope, contributing editor Robert Zimmerman discusses the past, present, and future of the Clouds, and how this recent research has completely changed our understanding of these large and impressive neighbors.
If the Clouds are only recent visitors to the Milky Way’s immediate neighborhood, then where did they come from? Watch the video below for one possible answer:
How did Milky Way manage to capture not just one, but two satellite galaxies? Simulations may hold the answer: