1680s, from Modern Latin Magellanicus, from Latinized name of Portuguese navigator Fernão de Magalhães (c.1470-1521), the first European to round the tip of South America. He described them c.1520, hence the name in Europe; but at least the larger of the two had been mentioned by Anghiera in 1515. In English they were earlier the Cape Clouds, because they became prominent as sailors neared the Cape of Good Hope; "but after Magellan became noted and fully described them they took and have retained his name." [Allen]
Coompasinge abowte the poynt thereof, they myght see throughowte al the heaven about the same, certeyne shynynge whyte cloudes here and there amonge the starres, like unto theym whiche are scene in the tracte of heaven cauled Lactea via, that is the mylke whyte waye. [Richard Eden, translation of "Decades of the New World," 1555]
|Magellanic Clouds |
Two small, irregular dwarf galaxies that orbit the Milky Way. They are among the galaxies closest to the Milky Way and are faintly visible near the south celestial pole. See also irregular galaxy.