StarChild Question of the Month for November 1999

Question:

Can you see other galaxies without a telescope?

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Answer:

Yes, you can see a few other galaxies without using a telescope! Our nearest neighbors, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, are easy to see from the southern hemisphere. However, one of the most beautiful galaxies we can see with the naked eye is visible in the night sky all this month (November). The nearby Andromeda Galaxy, also called M31, is bright enough to be seen by the naked eye on dark, moonless nights. The Andromeda Galaxy is the only other (besides the Milky Way) spiral galaxy we can see with the naked eye.
The nearby Andromeda Galaxy, also called M31

Here is where to look during the month of November:

Start at the northeast corner of the Great Square of Pagasus - the constellation Andromeda forms a "handle" attached to the northeast corner of the "bowl" formed by the Great Square. Find the second bright star in the handle (the last star before the end of the handle) and from that star, make a 90 degree turn to the line that joins the two handle stars, pass the first star you see and look at the 2nd "star". It appears to be a "fuzzy star". That is the Andromeda Galaxy. Here is a star chart to help you find the Andromeda Galaxy. Note that the top of the image is north and east is to the left side of the image.

Star chart to help you find the Andromeda Galaxy

Think about what you are really seeing:

It is a whole other GALAXY, not an object within our own Milky Way! The Andromeda Galaxy is about 2.5 million light-years away and is about 200,000 light-years across. It is thought to contain about 400 billion stars.

If you are lucky enough to be able to observe the Andromeda Galaxy through a small telescope or a good pair of binoculars, it is obvious that most of its light comes from a very bright central core. The spiral arms of the galaxy are considerably dimmer than the core.

Discover more about Andromeda at:

http://www.seds.org/messier/m/m031.html

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