So, you’re still interested in Astronomy?
This time around, I thought we’d start to do something different. Something practical. After all, stargazing is an amazing pastime. Not only does it provide us with a glimpse into the marvels of the universe, but it helps us appreciate just how tiny we are.
As a boy, I often used to look up into the night sky and wonder, what’s out there?
So, in line with that, I thought I’d start to feature little tips that stargazers can enjoy to get more out of the sky above them at night.
To begin, I’ll ask you a question.
Have you ever seen another galaxy with your own eyes? Not through a telescope. Not through a strong set of binoculars. I’m talking about looking at an entirely different star-whirl with your very own eyes?
If your answer is “no!” I’ll ask you another question . . .
Would you like to learn how you could do that?
Yes, today, we’re going to learn how we can look at the galaxy of Andromeda, and hopefully, open up a whole new personal chapter of stargazing.
But first of all, let’s think of some practical steps:
Step 1: Get 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.
Step 2: Let your eyes adapt to the dark. The Andromeda Galaxy is not as bright as other stars around it. When you go out to stargaze, give yourself fifteen minutes to adjust to the darkness. You may realize that you can see more stars than you could at first.
Having done that, we can begin our journey.
To do that, you need to look for a constellation everybody knows well: Ursa Major, or as many call it – the Big Dipper. From there you can spot the Pole star. Basically, all you have to do, is keep going from the Big Dipper, through the pole Star, until you come to the constellation of Cassiopeia. (Fig 1)
Believe it or now, you’re halfway there.
Cassiopeia looks like two triangles joined together. Go to the pointy end of the top triangle. (Fig 2)
Follow that direction for about the width of your fist, and you’ll start seeing the stars belonging to the Pegasus constellation. The main part of Pegasus looks like a giant rectangle. The one in the bottom left-hand corner is very bright, and that’s the one you want, as it joins to the constellation of Andromeda.
You should see two lines of stars extending from the left-hand corner of this star. (They look like the legs of a stick man taking a walk) That’s the Andromeda constellation. . . (Keep in mind that the Andromeda constellation is separate from the Andromeda Galaxy) I’ve enlarged this picture for clarification
Basically, if you travel upward from the two center stars along that Andromeda spur, you come to an indistinct fuzzy oval blob. (Fig 4)
THAT my friend, the galaxy M31 – Andromeda.
On a very clear night, you can just make it out. If you’re unsure, just glance slightly left or right. That brings different areas of the eye into play, and allows you to see a whole new universe! And once you’ve practiced zeroing in on Andromeda, THAT’s when a good set of binoculars come in handy.
So there you go. Now YOU will be one of the select people on Earth who can say they’ve seen an entirely different universe that wasn’t on the TV or a computer!
Who knows . . . perhaps there’s a little boy somewhere on one of the millions of planets in Andromeda who at this moment, is looking up into the night sky at our galaxy and wondering, “What’s out there?”