Distant Nebulae

In the Small Magellanic Cloud

Star fields, nebulae and newly formed clusters in another galaxy.

Image exposure:
120 minutes
Image field of view:
87.6 x 56.4 arcminutes
Image date:

You are looking into the heart of the the Small Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy which is possibly in orbit around the Milky Way galaxy (but may be just passing by). It is at an estimated current distance of about 206,000 light years from us, way beyond the realm of the globular clusters.

It is a Southerly object in the constellation of Tucana, just 17° from the South Celestial Pole, so it is below the horizon at latitudes higher than 17° North.

The SMC has a diameter of about 7,000 light-years and has a few hundred million stars,

The apparent field of view of the SMC covers an area of the sky of about is 18° degrees and my image captures about 8% of it.

Some of the very bright foreground stars are located in the Milky Way but the remaining stars are all 200,000+ light years away in the SMC galaxy.

The three principal reddish objects across the centre are: NGC 346, NGC 371 and NGC 395, all HII emission nebulae in the SMC, with associated clusters of hot young stars having formed in them.

The diameter of the NGC 346 nebula is listed as 1149 light years. If this is correct, that makes it more than thirty times larger than the Orion Nebula M42. Just imagine the sight of NGC 346 if it were in our own galaxy at a similar distance to M42!

Other objects visible are: IC 306, IC 1611, IC 1612, IC1624, NGC 361, NGC 411, NGC 422 and IC 1641, all in the SMC.

Small Magellanic Cloud
Image: Wikimedia Commons, ESA/Hubble Digitized Sky Survey 2


Thanks for reading 🙃


Our covid delta lock-down began on 26th June and has now been extended to the end of September. 😲

This week I reluctantly relocated the Cosmic Focus Observatory from the front of the house, where I have the best sky views, to the back yard, where my views are much more limited. This is now my temporary location until the covid restrictions are eased.

I don’t believe I was taking liberties with any NSW Public Health Orders where I was (the street is always totally deserted, I was on my property and I wore a mask) but I felt I was somewhat exposed to the remote possibility of a police officer interpreting the health orders more strictly than I.

34° S

Cosmic Focus Observatory

Above us only sky….

Telescope:SkyWatcher Esprit 120 mm 840 mm f/l @ f/7.
Optics:Field flattener; Astronomik CLS CCD LP filter.
Mount & Guiding:SkyWatcher EQ6-R Pro mount.
Imaging camera:ZWO ASI 071 MC cooled.

Images © Roger Powell
I’m one of the founder members of Macarthur Astronomical Society and current webmaster.


    1. I see people doing their thing in the garden by day but I’m unsure how law enforcement regards astronomy by night, even on my own property. I’m hoping this will only be for a few months at the most.
      One good thing I have learnt is that the SharpCap software can polar align my mount, despite a tree blocking much of the celestial polar region.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Whilst they can be spotted easily in dark southern skies, the two Magellanic Clouds are awkward for astronomers because both are way too big to fit into a telescope field of view.

      Liked by 1 person

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