The Large and Small Magellanic
Clouds appear to have started
out as barred spiral galaxies, with a core of new stars and short bars
extending from the core into
The gravity of our galaxy,
the Milky Way, has distorted the Clouds into irregular shapes. Another
effect of the Milky Way's gravity is to create streams of hydrogen and
stars between the three galaxies. The Milky Way's gravity may
eventually destroy the Magellanic Clouds.
The Large and Small
Magellanic Clouds contain stars similar to those found in the Milky Way
early in its history.
They are rich in gas and dust, which means that a
lot of new stars are produced within them. The most active area
star production in our Local
Group, the Tarantula
Nebula, can be found
in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The Magellanic Clouds have a higher
proportion of gases such as hydrogen and helium than the Milky Way, and
proportion of metals.
is less evolved than the Milky Way. The Large Magellanic Cloud contains
a quarter of the amount
of 'heavy' elements, for example carbon and
oxygen, of the Milky Way, while the Small Magellanic Cloud contains a
tenth of the Milky Way's heavy elements.
Cloud contains sixty globular clusters, four hundred planetary nebulae
and seven hundred open clusters. Globular clusters are collections of
stars which orbit the centre of the galax. They are tightly bound in a
sphere by gravity and have high densities at the centre. Planetary
nebulae have nothing to do with planets; they are shells of gas and
plasma which are formed by some types of stars at the end of their
lives. Open clusters are groups of a few thousand stars formed at the
same time, held loosely together by gravity.