On the origin of the Magellanic Stream bifurcation by LMC-SMC interaction

Gas is the fundamental fuel for star formation and galaxy growth, coming either through cold filaments or wet mergers between galaxies. The Magellanic System, consisting of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC and SMC) and the Magellanic Stream, an extended tail of neutral and ionized gas, trailing the Clouds in their orbit around the Milky Way, is a unique opportunity to study both of these processes in exquisite detail in our Galaxy. The complexity of the Stream's morphology, spatial extent and metallicity present a challenge to current numerical simulations. In particular, the Stream is bifurcated in the trailing arm and this feature is not reproduced in the models that envision the Stream as originated by gas dislodged by the SMC by tidal interaction with the LMC. I will show the difficulties in reproducing the observed Stream using only stripping caused by the mutual interaction of both the LMC and the SMC at their first passage around the Milky Way. My findings also reveal a tension between the observed and the predicted gas mass in the Stream. Ongoing work reveals the additional processes that remove gas from the two galaxies and how this gas accretes into the Milky Way.

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