Published in Proceedings of the IAU Symposium 256, The Magellanic System: Stars, Gas, and Galaxies, Jacco Th. van Loon & Joana M. Oliveira, eds. 2009, pp. 81-92.

For a PDF version of the article, click here.


Roeland P. van der Marel 1, Nitya Kallivayalil 2 & Gurtina Besla 3

1 Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218
2 MIT, Kavli Inst. for Astrophysics & Space Research, 70 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
3 Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Abstract. We review our understanding of the kinematics of the LMC and the SMC, and their orbit around the Milky Way. The line-of-sight velocity fields of both the LMC and SMC have been mapped with high accuracy using thousands of discrete traces, as well as HI gas. The LMC is a rotating disk for which the viewing angles have been well-established using various methods. The disk is elliptical in its disk plane. The disk thickness varies depending on the tracer population, with V / sigma ranging from ~ 2-10 from the oldest to the youngest population. For the SMC, the old stellar population resides in a spheroidal distribution with considerable line-of-sight depth and low V / sigma. Young stars and HI gas reside in a more irregular rotating disk. Mass estimates based on the kinematics indicate that each Cloud is embedded in a dark halo. Proper motion measurements with HST show that both galaxies move significantly more rapidly around the Milky Way than previously believed. This indicates that for a canonical 1012 Modot Milky Way the Clouds are only passing by us for the first time. Although a higher Milky Way mass yields a bound orbit, this orbit is still very different from what has been previously assumed in models of the Magellanic Stream. Hence, much of our understanding of the history of the Magellanic System and the formation of the Magellanic Stream may need to be revised. The accuracy of the proper motion data is insufficient to say whether or not the LMC and SMC are bound to each other, but bound orbits do exist within the proper motion error ellipse.

Table of Contents