The Large Magellanic Cloud, LMC

Irregular Galaxy LMC, the Large Magellanic Cloud in Dorado

Right Ascension 5 : 23.6 (h:m)
Declination -69 : 45 (deg:m)
Distance 179.0 (kly)
Visual Brightness 0.1 (mag)
Apparent Dimension 650x550 (arc min)

Known pre-historically on the Southern hemisphere. Discovered by Magellan 1519.

The Large Magellanic Cloud, together with its apparent neighbor and relative, the Small Magellanic Cloud, are conspicuous objects in the southern hemisphere, looking like separated pieces of the Milky Way for the naked eye. They were certainly known since the earliest times by the ancient southerners, but these people produced little documents which are still preserved. So it was Magellan and his discovery expedition who brought them to our knowledge in 1519.

Both Magellanic Clouds are irregular dwarf galaxies orbiting our Milky Way galaxy, and thus are members of our Local Group of galaxies. The Large Magellanic Cloud, at its distance of 179,000 light years, was longly considered the nearest external galaxy, until in 1994, the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy was discovered at only about 80,000 light years. (Our current distance value takes into account the corrected Cepheid distance scale based on the Hipparcos satellite data published in early 1997.)

Although a small irregular galaxy, the LMC is full of interesting objects including diffuse nebulae (especially the Tarantula Nebula, NGC 2070, a giant H II region), globular and open clusters, planetary nebulae, and more.

On February 24, 1987, supernova 1987A occurred in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which was the nearest observed supernova since Keplers, which occured before the invention of the telescope. Supernova 1987A, peculiar and of type II, was one of the most interesting objects for the astrophysicists in the 1980s (some even say of this century).

In John Caldwell's observing list. In the Astronomical League's Southern Sky Binocular Club list.

The image in this page was obtained by David Malin with the Anglo-Australian Telescope. This image is copyrighted and may be used for private purpose only. For any other kind of use, including internet mirroring and storing on CD-ROM, please contact the Photo Permissions Department of the Anglo Australian Observatory.

  • More information on this image (David Malin)

  • Multispectral Image Collection of the Large Magellanic Cloud, SIRTF Multiwavelength Messier Museum
  • NED data of LMC
  • SIMBAD Data of LMC
  • Observing Reports for the Large Magellanic Cloud - LMC (IAAC Netastrocatalog)

    Hartmut Frommert (
    Christine Kronberg (

    [SEDS] [MAA] [Home] [Non-Messier Indexes]

    Last Modification: 29 Mar 1998, 13:15 MET