Andromeda Galaxy (M31) with M32, M101 & NGC 206
The Andromeda Galaxy
Our Local Group of Galaxies has two large members. Our own Milky Way Galaxy, of which
our sun is a member, and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Of the two the Andromeda Galaxy
is by far the larger with twice the mass of the Milky Way. The Andromeda Galaxy’s 300 billion
stars are around 2.5 million light years from the Milky Way, but the two giant galaxies are on a
collision course closing the distance between each other at 185 miles per second. Even at
that speed the two will not meet for at least 4 billion years.
Away from city lights the Andromeda Galaxy is not difficult to see with the unaided eye. With
a telescope it is one of most impressive objects in the night sky. With big optics and dark
skies this huge galaxy is full of wonderful detail. With my 6-inch refractor from suburban skies
much of its grander is lost to light pollution. But that is to be expected. At least I can attempt a
drawing of the Andromeda Galaxy from the deck at my house. There is far too much detail for
me to even think about drawing the Andromeda Galaxy as it appears through my 18-inch
telescope from a dark site.
In the drawing M110 and M32 are small satellite galaxies caught in the gravitational pull of the
Andromeda Galaxy. NGC 206 is a bright star-cloud in one of the spiral arms of the galaxy. I
had to use different eyepieces to tease out the various details in the drawing. The drawing
took longer than I had expected because more detail was seen the longer I observed it – but
that was a good thing and it often happens.