The Large Magellanic Clouds

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Paper I: The Large Magellanic Clouds

Introduction

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is a large and diffuse galaxy that resides in the southern hemisphere of the sky, barely visible to the naked eye between the constellations of Mensa and Dorado.1,2,3 The LMC shares its namesake with the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), both named for Ferdinand Magellan, who noted their existence on his journey around the world.1,3 This pair of galaxies shares a dust lane and interacts with each other through tidal forces.2,3

Structure of the Large Magellanic Cloud from 2MASS

The LMC morphology can be described as “an irregular barred spiral galaxy with three spiral arms and an extended outer loop of stellar material,” with a disk incline of 27° to the plane of the sky.4 While this information is readily evident, the overall structure of the LMC has been a constant subject of interest. In 2001, Martin D. Weinberg and Sergei Nikolaev explored this topic using UMass’s Two Micron All-Sky Survey (2MASS), a whole-sky coverage catalog of detectable galaxies and stars (finished in 2001).4 There are conflicting theories concerning the shape of the Large Magellanic Clouds; some researchers use the thin-disk model stemming from the kinematics of old long-period variables (LPVs) (Hughes, Wood, & Reid 1991) while others favor an evolving, tidal field induced strongly flared spheroidal-like distribution model with a spatially extended population(Weinberg 2000).4 These can be respectively explained as a thin exponential disk and a spherical power law model; both models are explored in detail to affirm previous studies’ data on the LMC structural parameters.4

The information from 2MASS was condensed into spatial density distribution maps with dif...

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