Is it possible to locate the Andromeda galaxy in a clear night sky?

If you know where to look (this is something that isn't too hard to find out using Google or some app on your Android or iDevice) and have found yourself a dark spot away from city lights, you can quite easily see the Andromeda galaxy with the naked eye. I have seen it many times myself.

However, only the central part - which is much smaller than the width of six Moons side by side - is visible without the use of visual aids. The outer stretches are much too faint. With the naked eye you'll just be able to see a dim fuzzy blob somewhat smaller than the Moon.

If you want to see more, you'll have to use a camera with a decent piece of glass in front of it, a tripod or other solid mounting and an exposure time of at least several seconds.

If you want to enjoy Andromeda in its full glory, you'll need much longer exposures. Typically several minutes. Because you'll be gathering light for quite a long time (much longer than just a few seconds) the mounting of your camera will also need a motor drive of sorts to compensate for the rotation of the Earth.

All in all the combination of factors (camera, lenses, exposure, mount, drive) is not simple or even straightforward, so it will take you some time to master them until you'll be able to produce a satisfying picture. But it is possible!


Your A2A is about a subject, Andromeda or M31 galaxy, which is close to my heart. It is an exciting subject to people of Persian ancestry because the first time, in 946 AD, the famous Persian astronomer Abdul Rahman Al-Sufi discovered and described it. And yes it was the first object beyond our galaxy to be recognized. Al-Sufi called it the little cloud. It was known subsequently as a cloud or nebula and that is what you primarily see without a telescope. However, long after telescopes were invented, it was still thought of as a big nebula or gas cloud. This went on 350 years till 1953 that Palomar 200 inch telescope was completed and discovered M31 to be a galaxy by observing its line spectra. The reason they call it M31 is that it is the 31st diffuse object on the Messier's list.

That brings us to your question why it can not be seen easily with eyes in all its majesty. At a measly 2.5 million light years on the intergalactic scale it is our closest spiral neighbor galaxy. As you have mentioned it is very big in the night sky. Andromeda is 220,000 light years across. That means that it subtends an angle of 5 degrees in our sky compared to the moon which has only an angle of 0.52 degrees (10 times larger than moon in apparent size). So why can't we see it. The answer is that visibility depends on brightness not size. It is a common misconception that a telescope can make things visible because it magnifies and blows them up. In fact no passive optical device, such as your eye or a telescope for that matter can increase the specific light intensity of an extended source. The telescopes increase the size and not the intensity and M31 is already plenty big to be seen. To make something brighter and make it visible the only solution is to expose the detecting cells for longer exposure times. Note the following photo of Andromeda courtesy of Robert Gendler 2004 July 18. The Andromeda looks majestic and certainly brighter than you see with your eyes only because a very long exposure was used to record the image. There are other enhancements like the image is actually a mosaic or composite of 20 images to increase the field of view.


A2A The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is the only galaxy visible in the night sky with the naked eye. You will need a dark sky with no Moon and you will have to wait until Autumn (Spring in the south - August through October). It's obscured in the blue sky of daylight right now (July).

It received its name from the area of the sky in which it appears, the constellation of Andromeda, which was named after the mythological princess Andromeda. Being approximately 220,000 light years across, it is the largest galaxy of the Local Group, which also contains the Milky Way, the Triangulum Galaxy, and about 44 other smaller galaxies.

The apparent magnitude of the Andromeda Galaxy, at 3.4, is one of the brightest of any of the Messier objects, making it visible to the naked eye on moonless nights even when viewed from areas with moderate light pollution.

Although it appears more than six times as wide as the full moon when photographed through a larger telescope, only the brighter central region is visible to the naked eye or when viewed using binoculars or a small telescope, making it appear similar to a star.

If you can see the Great Square clearly, then Andromeda should jump right out at you, but don't look for a bright star - it's only a smudge dubbed "Little Cloud" by the early Persian astronomers such as Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi (903–986 AD). It wasn't until 1917 that the world realized it was outside our own Milky Way Galaxy. The universe has been "getting bigger" ever since - in more ways than one.


Is it possible to locate the Andromeda galaxy in a clear night sky?


It certainly is possible; your best opportunities are after September when it's high in the sky. You do need a fairly dark sky, but I have no problem locating the Andromeda Galaxy from my suburban home.

Here's one of the simplest ways I know for finding the Andromeda Galaxy.


Yes, we can see MANY galaxies  in the night sky, but  often  a telescope or binoculars are required to differentiate a galaxy from stars  and often light pollution  is the limiting factor  along with high relative humidity at either  ground level or or at some  elevation in the in the atmosphere. I remember how annoyed i was  when either apartment management  or the city  replaced the bulb in street light that had been burned out for more  than 2,  possibly three years.  INSTANT light pollution.

From a dark location, go out in late summer, look east and then look up about half-way to the point overhead. Follow these instructions in order (1, 2 then 3).

You will only be seeing the small, bright core of the Andromeda galaxy. In other words, the part you see will not be six times the diameter of a full moon, it will be much smaller. But it will clearly be oblong. Use binoculars for a splendid view!


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