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The Small Magellanic Cloud

And the Globular Cluster 47 Tucanae


The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, and hangs closely in the Southern night sky to its larger brother, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Lying at a distance of some 200,000 light years away, it is home to several hundred million stars with a combined mass 7 billion times larger than the Sun. Similar to the LMC, it was a spiral galaxy that became distorted by the tidal forces of the Milky Way's gravity. The SMC, like its bigger brother, is visible to the naked eye from dark sky sites in southern latitudes, albeit dimmer. 

Just slightly above and to the left of the SMC, we see the globular cluster, 47 Tucanae. 47 Tucanae is the second brightest globular cluster in the night sky, after the globular cluster Omega Centauri. Although it appears just adjacent to the SMC, it is in fact much closer to us in the foreground, lying only 13,000 light years away, or less than 6.5% of the distance to the SMC. It is an extremely tight collection of stars, with several million stars packed into a volume only about 100 light years across. For comparison, the nearest star to the Sun lies at a distance of 4 light years away. 

This image was photographed using a very simple setup of only a DSLR, kit lens, and camera tracker.

Imaging Details

Location: Queenstown, New Zealand

Date(s): December 2016

Lens: Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS at 105mm f/4
Camera: Canon EOS 6D (Unmodified)
Mount: Vixen Polarie
Exposure: 32 x 1 minute, darks and flats applied

Image reduction, integration and processing with Pleiades Astrophoto PixInsight.

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