…continuedA Pair of Grand Galaxies
The Andromeda Galaxy
M31 is generally considered the most distant object visible to the unaided eye on a dark night. It is about 2.5 million light-years away distant enough to reduce the combined luminosity of its estimated 400 billion suns to a faint glow. City lights wipe it out for naked-eye viewers, but you can still detect its elongated central portion with binoculars. Under a truly dark sky the binocular view of M31 is magnificent, extending much of the way across the field of view. Backyard-type telescopes can typically encompass only a portion of its glowing expanse in a single view, and rarely do they show any detail. The view of M31 through larger telescopes reveals dust lanes in the galaxy's spiral arms.
Once you become a deep-sky aficionado, you will spend the rest of your observing career hunting out galaxies much fainter and smaller than this one. If Andromeda's subtle beauty fails to impress at first, consider this: if our own Milky Way galaxy were as distant, it would prove to be an even greater observing challenge!