Starwatch: catch a glimpse of the Andromeda galaxy as nights draw in

·1 min read
Starwatch chart 27 September 2021 showing how to locate the Andromeda galaxy

As the nights continue to draw in, we can put those darker evenings to good use. It is the beginning of observing season, and for stargazers in the northern hemisphere, there is a celestial jewel to track down: the Andromeda galaxy.

This will not be easy from an urban location, so a trip to the local park or somewhere under a reasonably dark sky will be necessary, but it is well worth the effort. If you can’t manage it this week, memorise the instructions and try when the opportunity presents itself.

The Andromeda galaxy, a vast collection of a trillion stars, similar to our Milky Way, is the farthest celestial object that can be seen with the unaided eye.

Your eyes will need to adjust to the dark, which can take up to 40 minutes. Then find the four stars that make up the body of Pegasus. Trace two stars along into Andromeda, arriving at Mirach. Turn through 90° and hop along two fainter stars.

Just above them, you should see a faint, fuzzy patch of light. That’s the Andromeda galaxy, and the light hitting your eyes has been travelling through space for 2.5m years.

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