The Night Sky: Andromeda Galaxy

On a clear night, you can see for three million light years!


This blog contains two pictures I took of the Andromeda galaxy. The first picture was taken with a simple 35mm DSLR camera. Galaxy M33 and star cluster Herschel H32-7 are labeled and on the left.  The second picture was through a telescope and shows the Andromeda galaxy close up and in detail.

Some M31 Facts:
The Andromeda Galaxy is also known as M31 from the Messier Astronomical Catalog compiled by Charles Messier in 1781. The Andromeda galaxy (M31) is the nearest spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like the Andromeda galaxy, and have about 50- 80% of its mass.

Even though the Andromeda galaxy is ‘only’ 3 million light years away, much about it remains unknown. One mystery is how and why the center of the Andromeda galaxy is composed of not one, but two giant black holes.
M31 contains hundreds of billions of stars, plus massive clouds of gases and dust waiting to form into more stars through gravitational collapse.  The Andromeda galaxy is the farthest object in the sky that can be seen with the unaided eye. You will need a very clear night and a dark location to see it. Better yet, visit the Bowman Observatory in Greenwich or the Stamford Observatory to get a closer look.
Two of Andromeda’s satellite galaxies can be seen in the telescope image.  Both satellite galaxies are included in the Messier catalog. Satellite galaxy M32 is lower
right of center.  Satellite M110 is just above and left of center. Both satellite galaxies are in the process of being cannibalized by the much bigger Andromeda.
Take note of the sprinkling of stars throughout the image foreground from our own Milky Way galaxy. Just think for a moment about the depth in these images. After the foreground stars of our Milky Way galaxy there is almost complete emptiness between the Milky Way galaxy and Andromeda. Imagine a paper plate that represents our Milky Way galaxy placed on the ground. Another paper plate that represents the Andromeda galaxy gets placed 30 paper plate diameters away. Each paper plate is hundreds of billions of stars, but the space between them is almost empty of stars.  It's rather humbling isn't it?
The Andromeda galaxy is on a collision course with our own Milky Way galaxy. It is approaching us at about 80 miles per second, and is predicted to collide with us three to four billion years from now.

Get ready to duck!

Clear Skies!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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