View the amazing Andromeda Galaxy with the naked eye
With the fall season approaching this weekend, this is a great time to introduce you to one of the most amazing objects in all of our yearly skies.
This is the season to look at another galaxy, well beyond our own Milky Way, one which is known as the Andromeda Galaxy.
This amazing object is actually visible to the naked eye from the darkest of skies and may appear as a little smudge of light. That smudge is a massive galaxy, much larger than our own.
It is thought that our Milky Way contains at least 250 billion stars and is well over 100,000 light years wide.
On the other hand, the Andromeda Galaxy may have well over 1 trillion stars, four times as many as the Milky Way.
This massive galaxy is thought be at least 220,000 light years in diameter, making it one of the largest in the night sky.
Some recent research suggests that Andromeda may be the same size as the Milky Way, but more research is needed to know.
Andromeda has been seen by observers since the earliest of times and was thought to have first been noted as a sky object,
Around the year 964, Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi first observed this object with the naked eye and recorded it as a small smudge in his famous “Book of Fixed Stars.”
Often referred to as “little cloud” by observers around the world, the true nature of this object was not known until modern times.
By the 1940s, astronomers had a good idea that this object was indeed a separate galaxy and one that was far from us.
The distance to the Andromeda Galaxy is around 2.4 million light years.
Now for the fun part.
If you look to the eastern sky after 9 p.m. on a clear evening, you will need the star chart which is downloadable at the bottom of this column to help locate the galaxy.
The constellation of Andromeda is home to this great galaxy and is easy to find, with the help of this map.
The galaxy is actually visible to the naked eye under clear and moonless conditions, with a size larger than that of the full moon.
On a final note, the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies will collide in the distant future, 4 billion years from now, and create a strange and even larger elliptical galaxy, so now is the time to go out and observe this other “island universe” right from your own backyard.
It may very well be the most distant object your eyes have ever seen.
Listen to Dr. Sky on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.
To print your very own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.