Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 July 2008
The Magellanic Clouds are often characterized as “irregular” galaxies, a term that implies an overall lack of organized structure. While this may be a fitting description of the Small Cloud, the Large Magellanic Cloud, contrary to popular opinion, should not be considered an irregular galaxy. It is characterized by a distinctive morphology of having an offset stellar bar and single spiral arm. Such morphology is relatively common in galaxies of similar mass throughout the local Universe, although explaining the origin of these features has proven challenging. Through a number of recent studies we are beginning to get a better grasp on what it means to be a Magellanic spiral. One key result of these works is that we now recognize that the most unique aspect of the Magellanic Clouds is not their structure, but, rather, their proximity to a larger spiral such as the Milky Way.
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