Andromeda Galaxy shines as summer makes way for autumn

Sep 8, 2021, 2:00 PM
(NASA Photo)...
(NASA Photo)
(NASA Photo)

As summer moves on to fall, there is a series of amazing objects to ponder and view in a basic pair of binoculars.

The best way to help locate many of these objects, is to take advantage of the free download at the end of this column. There, you will find an excellent monthly star chart and calendar of monthly sky events.

Let’s begin with a most amazing object for your observation schedule.

High in the northeastern sky at 8 p.m. Arizona time is the constellation of Pegasus, the winged horse. Just to the left and attached to Pegasus we come to the ancient constellation of Andromeda.

In mythology, Andromeda is the daughter of Cassiopeia and her husband Cepheus.

Her constellation is made up of a string of a few bright stars and is easy to find in even the most light polluted of skies.

Deep within the constellation of Andromeda we come to a most interesting object – the great Andromeda Galaxy, or M31 and to some, NGC 224.

Amazing as this may sound, the Andromeda Galaxy checks in at a visual magnitude of plus 3.4. This is relatively bright by astronomy standards.

What makes the galaxy even more interesting is that its total relative size in the night sky is at least the same size as a full moon! That around 30 minutes of arc, a half a degree in the night sky.

Here is a basic star chart to help you locate the elusive Andromeda Galaxy.

Now the fun begins:

As you first notice the hazy object in binoculars, note that the first recorded observation of this galaxy was made by the Persian astronomer al-Sufi in 964 A.D. He described the object as a “nebulous smear” with the naked eye.

That being said, the Andromeda Galaxy is a distinct galaxy at the amazing distance of 2.5 million light years from your eye.

In your time tunnel, the first homo habilis species of humans first appeared on Earth.

This is the most distant object that the average person may see in a lifetime.

With over 1 trillion stars, the Andromeda Galaxy is about the same size as our Milky Way Galaxy and has a similar shape.

For those with telescopes of at least 8 inches in diameter or better, here is a detailed star field of the great Andromeda Galaxy.

An even deeper view of the star cloud in the Andromeda Galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy makes for a most interesting object to view in our preautumn skies in Arizona.

Do it soon, as the Andromeda Galaxy will collide with our Milky Way in about 4 billion years and will create a new galaxy out of the collision.

Remember, nothing lasts forever.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

Podcasts are available here.

Dr. Sky Blog

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Andromeda Galaxy shines as summer makes way for autumn