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The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as Messier 31 or “the Great Spiral Galaxy” is one of the most distant objects that the unaided human eye can see. Use the constellations around the Andromeda Galaxy to help you pinpoint its location in the sky. You can see the galaxy faintly with your eyes, but binoculars or a telescope will make it clearer. To maximize your view, go out on a dark night in autumn or winter. Locating it for the first time is a little tricky, but once you find it, it’s hard to ever lose it again.
Locating the Galaxy
1Go away from the lights of the city.
Any light pollution can make it difficult to find the Andromeda Galaxy. It is best to go away from any urban areas, street lights, or lit parks. Take a hike onto a mountain, go out into an isolated field, or find another area without any light pollution.
3Use a star chart to determine where the galaxy will appear in the sky.
The position of galaxies, stars, and constellations can change with the seasons. Look for a star chart designed for the current month.
- You can often find star charts for free online. They are also sometimes sold at planetariums or by astronomical societies.
- The star chart may also tell you what the best of time night to see the Andromeda Galaxy is based on the season.
- For example, in September and October, the Andromeda Galaxy will rise in the eastern sky of the northern hemisphere. By midnight, it should be directly above your head.
- If you live in the southern hemisphere, you might look towards the northern horizon in December to see it. It may not rise high in the sky.
Download a stargazing app. There are many apps that can help you find the Andromeda Galaxy and other stars. These will adjust the star charts based on your position, hemisphere, season, and time of night. These include the Star Chart app, NightSky app, and GoSkyWatch.
5Locate the Cassiopeia constellation.
If you can
look for the bright star next to it. This is called
Across Polaris from the Big Dipper will be Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia contains five stars in a “W” shape. The right side of this “W” will point down directly at the Andromeda Galaxy.
6Find the Pegasus and Andromeda constellations.
Pegasus looks like a giant rectangle. You should see two lines of stars extending from the upper left-hand corner of this star. This is the Andromeda constellation.
- Keep in mind that the Andromeda constellation is separate from the Andromeda Galaxy.
Look between Pegasus and Cassiopeia for a smudge. The Andromeda Galaxy lies between the Pegasus constellation and the point of Cassiopeia. It should look like a blur or a hazy oval in the sky.
8Draw a line through the Mirach and Mu Andromedae stars.
Start at the star on the upper left-hand corner of Pegasus. The constellation Andromeda begins here. Follow Andromeda down two stars. You should see two stars stacked on top of one another called Mirach and Mu Andromedae. If you draw a line through the two stars and extend it past Mu Andromedae, you should run into the Andromeda Galaxy.
- Mu Andromedae is dimmer than Mirach. It is also the star closest to the Andromeda Galaxy.
9Look for the companion galaxies.
If you are using a telescope, you may find two faint fuzzy spots beside the galaxy. One of them, M32, is smaller in size and closer to the actual galaxy core. The other, NGC 205, is larger in size, and farther from the actual galaxy. Both are companion galaxies to Andromeda.
Choosing Your Tools
1Start by locating the galaxy with your naked eye.
You can see the Andromeda Galaxy without any special tools. It will look like a faint, fuzzy oval in the night sky. Once you have found the area of the sky where the galaxy is located, it may be easier to find it with binoculars or a telescope.
2Use binoculars for a closer look.
Binoculars will give you a closer look at the galaxy. Once you find the galaxy with your eye, bring the binoculars up slowly, and adjust your view until you can find the galaxy. It should look like an oval cloud when viewed through binoculars.
- You can use normal binoculars for this. The best binoculars to use have 7×50, 8×40, or 10×50 lenses.
3Use a telescope for a more detailed examination.
A typical 8 inches (20 cm) reflector telescope will let you see nucleus (or center) of the galaxy as well as its two companion galaxies. The galaxy is so large that you may not be able to see the whole thing at once using your telescope.
- If you are using a telescope, keep it at the lowest magnification settings. While the Andromeda Galaxy appears quite small to the naked eye, it will appear very large when using a telescope.
Maximizing Your View
1Look for the Andromeda Galaxy in fall or winter.
In the Northern hemisphere, the best time to view the Andromeda Galaxy is between August and September. In the southern hemisphere, you can see it between October and December. During these seasons, Andromeda will appear as soon as the sky darkens.
- It is possible to view the Andromeda Galaxy all year long in the northern hemisphere, although it may be more difficult to find in other seasons.
2Choose a night without a moon.
The moon can also dim your view of the stars. You will have the clearest view of the Andromeda Galaxy if you go out during the new moon or a crescent moon.
- If the moon is full, it may be difficult to find the Andromeda Galaxy.
- A new moon occurs once a month. Use an online lunar calendar to find the best night for stargazing this month.
Check the weather for a cloudless evening. Any clouds in the sky will obstruct your view of the stars. Look at weather reports before you head out to make sure that there will be no cloud cover.
Can I see it from Egypt?
You should be able to see it in Egypt, but it may be easier to see it in the northern parts of the country than in the southern areas.
Can Andromeda be seen from India?
Yes. It can be seen from anywhere in the northern hemisphere.
How do I find the Dumbbell Nebula?
Find the three stars that make up the Summer Triangle: Deneb, Altair and Vega. The Dumbbell Nebula is in the center of the triangle.
Can I still find the galaxy in the fall/wintertime if I live in the Northern Hemisphere?
Yes, if you’re far enough north. If your latitude is greater than 42 degrees north, the Andromeda galaxy is circumpolar – it goes around the sky in a circle, but never gets low enough to set below the horizon.
Has anyone ever calculated the real-time (actual) rather than the observed position of stellar bodies?
Absolutely. All of the known and documented have the actual position documented as well.
Why can’t I find this? I’m using really good binoculars and I’m looking in the exact spot. I can see every faint star but not the actual galaxy.
You need a sufficiently dark sky to see Andromeda. If you have too much light pollution it will be washed out.
So. In Peru is it visible to see the Andromeda and Milky Way?
It should be possible, but only at the right time of year, and even then, it will be very close to the horizon. In order to see it, you’ll need to find a place with absolutely no obstructions on the northern horizon.
How do I find Canavis Majoris in the night sky?
Unfortunately there is no “Canavis Majoris.” However there is Canis Major. It depends on where you are in the world as to when you will be able to see it in the year. A night calendar guide relevant to your area will also depict the lines and names and direction to look in the sky to find the constellation you are looking for.
I would like to know the exact angular direction, for example, 35 degrees north of east, north of west etc. and the elevation angle. What can I do?
You can use the Great Square of Pegasus. Second, you can use the constellation Cassiopeia. Use the Great Square of Pegasus to find the Andromeda Galaxy. A line between Mirach and Mu Andromedae points to the galaxy.
If you have few stars in the sky, is it harder to find or easier to see the Andromeda Galaxy?
If you can’t see many stars in the sky, you may have too much light pollution to see the Andromeda Galaxy. Try to find a darker area. Since the best way to find it is by using other constellations, you should make sure you can see many stars in the sky.
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|A series of photos of M31 arranged so as to appear that we are travelling towards the galaxy. All photos were taken by James Castelli.|
- What you actually see is the core of the galaxy, the outer arms are very faint. You might wish to try to photograph it to make it show up, but you will likely need a long exposure time, a camera adapter, and image stacking software such as Registax or ImagesPlus.
- Remember to dress for the weather, especially in the colder months.
To find the Andromeda Galaxy, look between August and September if you live in the northern hemisphere or October and December if you live in the southern hemisphere. Also, wait for a cloudless night when the moon isn’t out, which will make the Andromeda Galaxy easier to see. Then, when you’re looking in the sky, start by finding the Cassiopeia constellation, which has 5 stars in a “w” shape and is located near the north star. Next, find the nearby Pegasus constellation, which looks like a big rectangle. Finally, locate the hazy oval between Cassiopeia and Pegasus, which is the Andromeda Galaxy. To learn how to use a star chart or stargazing app to find the Andromeda Galaxy, scroll down!
This article was co-authored by our trained team of editors and researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Together, they cited information from 14 references. wikiHow’s Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article meets our high standards.
In other languages:
Italiano: Trovare la Galassia di Andromeda, Español: encontrar la galaxia de Andromeda, Deutsch: Die Andromedagalaxie finden, Português: Localizar a Galáxia Andrômeda, Русский: найти галактику Андромеды, Français: trouver la galaxie d’Andromède, Bahasa Indonesia: Menemukan Galaksi Andromeda, Nederlands: De Andromedanevel vinden
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