Want to find the Andromeda galaxy? Here are 2 ways
2 ways to find the Andromeda galaxy
Take a night to drive to a dark sky and find the glorious Andromeda galaxy. It’s the great spiral galaxy next door to the Milky Way, and the most distant object you can see with your eye alone. It’s best seen in the evening at this time of year. Most people find the galaxy by star-hopping from the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen, a very noticeable M- or W-shaped pattern on the sky’s dome. But you can also find the Andromeda galaxy by star-hopping from the star Alpheratz in the Great Square of Pegasus. Both methods will lead you to the galaxy. Check out the charts below and find your favorite.
Find the Andromeda galaxy by star-hopping from Cassiopeia
Find the Andromeda galaxy by star-hopping from the Great Square
The importance of a dark sky
Just be aware … Bright moonlight or city lights can overwhelm the faint glow of the Andromeda galaxy. The single most important thing you need to see this object is a dark sky.
What does the galaxy look like to the eye? In a dark sky, it appears as a large fuzzy patch, bigger than a full moon in the sky but vastly fainter and more subtle.
Binoculars enhance the view
Binoculars are an excellent choice for beginners to observe the Andromeda galaxy, because they are so easy to point. As you stand beneath a dark sky, locate the galaxy with your eye first. Then slowly bring the binoculars up to your eyes so that the galaxy comes into binocular view. If that doesn’t work for you, try sweeping the area with your binoculars. Go slowly, and be sure your eyes are dark-adapted. The galaxy will appear as a fuzzy patch to the eye. It’ll appear brighter in binoculars. Can you see that its central region is more concentrated?
With the eye, binoculars, or with a backyard telescope, the Andromeda galaxy won’t look like the images from famous telescopes and observatories. But it will be beautiful. It’ll take your breath away.
Bottom line: Our neighboring Andromeda galaxy – the nearest large spiral galaxy to the Milky Way – is visible on dark, moonless evenings from now until the beginning of northern spring. Here are two ways to find it.