UW-Madison scientists challenge formation narrative for Magellanic Clouds

Nov 22, 2021

A new model developed by scientists in the UW-Madison Astronomy and Physics Departments is pushing the cutting edge of our understanding of the formation and evolution of the Magellanic System. In a letter published in the Astrophysical Journal, graduate student Scott Lucchini, Professor Elena D’Onghia and Dr. Andrew Fox (STScI) proposed a novel model to reproduce the Magellanic Stream, a massive structure in the southern sky consisting of intertwined gaseous filaments stripped off the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. The new simulations employ a novel, first-infall orbital history including just two close encounters between the Magellanic Clouds and reproduce many of the features observed in the Magellanic System including the Trailing Stream, Magellanic Bridge, and accurate positions and velocities for the LMC and the SMC. In a significant paradigm shift, this new model predicts that the Stream could be up to five times closer than previously thought. This new, nearby Stream presents many important implications including the ability to possibly detect the gas in absorption against distant Milky Way halo stars, as well as increased likelihood to detect a stellar component of the Stream which has long eluded scientists.

See the press release for further details about this exciting development.

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