Astronomers from the University of Michigan have confirmed that two satellite galaxies to the Milky Way have collided — the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Small Magellanic Cloud.
Phys.org reported that the researchers were using recently released data from a new space telescope called Gaia that was launched by the European Space Agency.
The team discovered that the southeast region of the SMC, known as the Wing, is moving away from the main body of the dwarf galaxy. According to the report, this is the first clear evidence that the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds “recently” collided.
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is around 160,000 light years from Earth, so a “recent” collision must have happened at least 160,000 years ago for its effects to be visible from our satellites.
“This is really one of our exciting results. You can actually see that the Wing is its own separate region that’s moving away from the rest of the SMC,” said the researchers.
The results of the study are published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.