Star-hop from Pegasus to Andromeda Galaxy ~ Sky Watch


By Bruce McClure

Tonight, try star-hopping to the famous Andromeda galaxy – the large spiral galaxy next-door to our Milky Way – from the Great Square of Pegasus. Ready?

Look westward for the four stars of the Great Square. You’ll find them high in the west at early evening. The Great Square will sink toward the west-northwest horizon as evening deepens, but this famous pattern of stars will remain in view until late evening (at mid-northern latitudes).

Keep in mind that our sky chart covers a larger portion of sky than our charts usually do. The Great Square is so large that your hand can slip in between any two Great Square stars. Hold your hand at arm’s length whenever measuring distances on the sky’s dome.

More about M31: Great galaxy in Andromeda

Focus on the top star of the Great Square on the above sky chart. If you look carefully, you’ll see the constellation Andromeda as two streamers of stars jutting up from this uppermost Great Square star. To me, the two streamers make the shape of a cornucopia or a bugle.

Do you love stargazing? Order your EarthSky Planisphere today!

Go to the second star upward on each streamer: Mirach and Mu Andromedae (abbreviated Mu on the sky chart). Draw an imaginary line from Mirach through Mu, going twice the Mirach/Mu distance. You’ve just landed on the Andromeda galaxy!

On a dark night, the Andromeda galaxy looks like a faint, blurry patch of light. If you can’t see it with the unaided eye, your sky might not be dark enough.

Try binoculars!

About the Author:

By Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky’s popular Tonight pages since 2004. He’s a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.


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