Two major galaxies in the local group are already in the process of being devoured by us… and each other.
The Milky Way is the second-largest galaxy in our local group, which contains some 60 galaxies of various sizes.
Small galaxies are found all across our neighborhood, with many clustered around the largest members: Andromeda, ourselves, and Triangulum.
Two of the largest dwarfs, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, are located less than 200,000 light years from Earth.
Although they’re only between 0.1%-1% the Milky Way’s mass, these irregular, dwarf neighbors are full of interesting, new stars.
New star formation is triggered by mutual gravitational interactions combined with the Milky Way’s tug.
The gas within these galaxies gets shunted into new clusters, including the local group’s largest star-forming region: 30 Doradus.
But these gravitational interactions also strip the gas away from these dwarfs, where the Milky Way will devour it.
The largest gas stream seems to connect both galaxies, but which cloud it originated from was a mystery.
Until, that is, scientists led by Andrew Fox looked at the absorption effects of this gas from background quasar light.
The cosmic fingerprints matched the Small, not Large, Magellanic Cloud.
While the Milky Way will eventually devour both, large dwarfs strip the gas away from smaller ones, hastening their demise.
Mostly Mute Monday tells the astronomical story of an object, image, or phenomenon in the Universe in pictures, visuals, and no more than 200 words.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.