Dorado – the swordfish

July 23, 2017


The constellation Dorado is one of 12 constellations created by the Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius, who liked to name stuff after exotic animals. The allegorical figure is usually drawn as a swordfish, even though the name itself is associated with dolphinfish. The name dolphinfish is associated with mahi mahi, and the name mahi mahi is associated with basil butter and mango chutney.

The most obvious and amazing thing to see in Dorado is the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). From Earth it looks like a detached chunk of the Milky Way which peeled off and floated away. It’s actually a dwarf galaxy orbiting around the Milky Way. There are several dwarf galaxies orbiting around us, and we see that they orbit other galaxies as well. Now days we are pretty confident that all the larger galaxies are merely conglomerates of lesser galaxies that joined forces in the past. And that amalgamation process is continuing. It probably will continue until there are no little galaxies left. With galaxies it’s a case where the big ones eat the little ones, kind of like fish, or corporations.

Zooming in on the LMC, you’ll find the Tarantula Nebula, NGC 2070. It’s being lit up by a cluster stars that altogether weighs about 450,000 solar masses. That’s an excessive number of stars for a cluster of this type. It’s like a skyscraper built in a rural village. Someone should take a close look at the construction permits.

There is a hypervelocity star in Dorado called HE 0437-5439. It’s a star moving so fast that the combined gravity of our entire galaxy is not enough to keep it in tow. It’s receding from us at the outrageous speed of 723 kilometers per second. That’s enough to send it whizzing into intergalactic space. Why the hurry? Why all the fuss? The only thing we can imagine here is that it had a close encounter with something big and scary, like a black hole.

Another weird but interesting note about this constellation is that, unlike the others, the name “Dorado” is not Latin. It is Portuguese, which I actually find rather impressionante.

Carpe Noctem

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