Tonight – November 8, 2017 – the moon is out of the sky at early evening, making this an ideal time to search for the Andromeda galaxy. It’s out all night long at this time of year. Yesterday, we told you how to use the constellation Cassiopeia to find it. This evening, however, try locating it by using the Great Square of Pegasus.
You’ll be looking eastward at nightfall. You’ll want a dark, moon-free sky that isn’t drowned by city lights. And you’ll need to be in the Northern Hemisphere. The Andromeda galaxy is located rather far to the north on the sky’s dome, and can’t be seen as well (or at all) from the Southern Hemisphere.
The Great Square consists of a large square pattern of stars in the east at nightfall. By mid-evening, the Great Square swings way up high in your southern sky.
Extending from the Square, you’ll find two graceful streams of stars – another constellation, Andromeda. I learned to find the Andromeda galaxy by “star-hopping” from the star Alpheratz in Great Square to the two stars marked here – first Mirach, then Mu Andromedae.
An imaginary line drawn through these two stars points to the Andromeda galaxy. If you can’t see the Andromeda galaxy with the unaided eye, try binoculars.
From Northern Hemisphere latitudes, by mid-evening, this galaxy will climb almost straight overhead, so you might want to enjoy the comfort of a reclining lawn chair for viewing this deep-sky treasure. The galaxy appears in our sky as a large hazy patch – bigger than a full moon.
It’s very noticeable in a star-filled sky, far from city lights, on a night when the moon is down.
Bottom line: The wonderful Andromeda galaxy! Most distant object we can see with the eye alone. Try using the Great Square of Pegasus to find it in a dark sky.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.