Large Magellanic Cloud: What is It? And How to Find It in the Sky?

December 27, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

People can see the The Large Magellanic Cloud without a telescope or binoculars. The cloud is a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, floating in space and slowly revolving around the galaxy.

Within the cloud, vast clouds of gas slowly collapse to form new stars, which light up the gas clouds in a range of colors.

While viewing with the naked eye is possible, it’s also better to view the cloud with a telescope.

People south of about 20 degrees South latitude, the cloud can be seen all night every night of the year, weather permitting, according to EarthSky. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the cloud can be seen only south of about 20 degrees North latitude if it becomes visible at all.

“This excludes North America (except southern Mexico), Europe, northern Africa and northern Asia.” It can be viewed best in the hemisphere from December to April.

“When the constellation Orion reaches its highest point in the sky, so does the Large Magellanic Cloud. But even at 15 degrees north latitude (the latitude of Central America), the LMC never gets far above the southern horizon,” EarthSky reports.

“However, it’s fairly easy to star-hop to this southern treasure by using the two brightest stars in the nighttime sky: Sirius and Canopus. Draw a line from Sirius and past the right side of Canopus to descend to the LMC. Our sky chart is designed for about 15 degrees north. Farther south, the LMC sits higher in the southern sky.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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