Country WA gives you an excellent opportunity to see something not normally visible under bright city lights. The Magellanic Clouds are two dwarf galaxies that can be seen in our southern skies, and now is a great time to see them.
The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds look like two faint clouds in the southern night sky, one larger than the other, and form a splendid spectacle. They are only seen from the Southern Hemisphere.
The Magellanic Clouds were named after the Portuguese sailor Ferdinand Magellan who completed the first circumnavigation of the Earth from 1519 to 1522, using the ‘clouds at night’ to voyage into the southern seas.
When to look: After 8 pm or once dark, throughout the year and best when there is no moonlight.
Which direction to look: South
When you look directly south, the Southern Cross is very low to the horizon. So low, you may not see it. In the sky above, you should notice two very bright stars (Canopus and Achernar). The Magellanic Clouds are below these two stars and will look like small, faint clouds.
The Large Magellanic Cloud is between 160,000 to 180,000 light years from Earth and the Small Magellanic cloud is a bit further and is between 200,000 t0 210,000 light years away. That’s very close, astronomically speaking!
It’s mind-blowing to think that when we look at these galaxies today, that light we see left those galaxies at around the time dinosaurs walked the Earth!
We will have more stargazing tips and helpful hints coming up in our next article! Keep looking up and marvel at our clear, dark skies.