The nucleus of the Andromeda galaxy, M31
AAO image reference INT 1.    « Previous || Next »

Top left is NE. Image width is about 15.5 arc min.
© 1991-2002, Malin/IAC/RGO. Photograph from Isaac Newton Telescope plates by David Malin.

The nearest comparable spiral galaxy to the Milky Way is M31 (NGC 224), the great galaxy in Andromeda. It is visible to the unaided eye and has been known as a curious hazy patch since ancient times. Only in the last 75 years has its nature as a distant city of stars like the Milky Way become apparent.

This picture covers almost half a degree of sky (about the size of the full moon), but wide angle telescopes show the galaxy to be over three degrees long at its widest. Here we see only the central part of M31, the huge mass of stars that are in orbit around its nucleus. Silhouetted against this starry background are tangled sheets and curtains of dust, very reminiscent of dust clouds we see in our own galaxy.

M31 is in the Local Group of galaxies of which the Milky Way is the other prominent member. These galaxies are gravitationally bound to each other and do not share in the general expansion of the universe. M31 and the Milky Way are approaching each other at a velocity of about 300 km per second, which is a very modest speed on the cosmic scale. Like all the images on these pages, this picture was made from three black and white glass negatives. Some care has been taken to ensure that the colours seen here are realistic.

Related images
INT 2.  The nucleus of M31
INT 3.  The southern arm of M31 (NGC 224) and M32 (NGC 221)
Caltech M31The Andromeda galaxy, M31 and its companions.

Entry from NGC 2000.0 (R.W. Sinnott, Ed.) © Sky Publishing Corporation, 1988:
NGC  224  Gx 00 42.7  +41 16 s  And 178. 3.5  !!! eeB, eL, vmE (Andromeda); = M31 
For details of photographic exposure, search technical table by AAT reference number.

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