Astronomers from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and their collaborators have found that hundreds of the stars found in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) were stolen from another nearby galaxy – the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are both neighbor galaxies to our Milky Way Galaxy and easily visible to the unaided eye from the southern hemisphere.
By analysing the spectra of 5900 giant and supergiant stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy, NOAO astronomers Knut Olsen and Bob Blum, and their collaborators Dennis Zaritsky (University of Arizona), and Martha Boyer and Karl Gordon (Space Telescope Science Institute) found that over 5% of the stars they observed in the LMC are rotating counter to the direction of the majority of LMC stars, or perhaps in a plane that is greatly inclined to the rotation of the LMC. An ambiguity remains in the result, because the astronomers were only able to measure the projection of the stellar velocities into the line of sight, and not their full velocity vectors. In either case, these peculiar orbits indicate that these stars probably did not form from the rotating and collapsing cloud of gas that formed the LMC, a galaxy located about 160,000 light years away.