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Glossary term: Magellenic clouds

Description: The Magellenic Clouds are two galaxies orbiting the Milky Way. The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is about 14,000 light-years across and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is about 7,000 light-years across. The SMC is an irregular galaxy but the LMC may have had a spiral structure before being disrupted by tidal forces from the Milky Way's gravity. Both galaxies are visible as faint glows with the naked eye. These galaxies have been known for millenia by the peoples of equatorial and southern regions of the Earth who gave them many names. Medieval Islamic astronomers knew of them from travellers' stories. Their European name comes from Ferdinand Magellan on whose voyages some of the first European observations of these galaxies were made.

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Term and definition status: This term and its definition is still awaiting approval

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