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Observing tonight, I think I found M31, following the second star from outside the "square". However, it showed only as a small smudge. Have I stumbled on something else? Or is it just that very poor seeing conditions have obscured this together with light pollution? I expected it to be larger in spread, but reason this must have been it, since any of the smaller ones would be fainter, right?

Steve

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Ditto for me too Steve. I kept thinking I was on M32, spiraled around, but nothing.

Still impressed I saw another galaxy tho.

Andy..

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I use a relatively small scope - 130mm reflector - and M31 isn't much to look at.

Sure you can find it with binoculars, or even the naked eye as its magnitude is quite high, but it's also very large, so that light is spread over a large area - it has low surface brightness. Consequently it's only the core of the galaxy we're seeing.

The bigger the aperture of your scope, the more you'll see, but it needs to be imaged to get any real detail - like dust lanes and spiral arms - or even find the true extent of it.

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Andy

Thanks feel sort of reassured, it's exactly my experience, because I thought "I'm in the right area of the sky" but thought it should be bigger. I thought somehow I'd hit one of the others too.

Steve

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James,

Seems then I did find it, but suffered from over expectation

Steve

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Again, same here. I have a 6" Newt, and only get dull grey "fuzz"

Moreover, I dont think my Fujipix bridge cam will leave the shutter open long enough to capture something that dim. Might try LP filter. hope to improve contrast.

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The best view I had of M31 through an eyepiece was when I used a 15 inch Dobson in a rural setting south of Hagerstown.

I could actually trace out the spiral arms, and saw the brighter conglomerations of stars that form some of the clusters near the outer reaches of them. The contrast was almost not there, but by using averted vision, and moving the scope into and out of the area, it obvious as to what I was seeing.

As the others have said, we have much too high an anticipation of what we should see, based on all the magazine and book pictures of the galaxy. It it such a shame that so much better pictures appear on this website than many we have taken to be the "standard" we should reach up to !

Jim S.

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I have a 10" dob and it has always mesmerized me, not necessarily for the "view" but what the galaxy simply was,.. our nearest neighbour (galaxial neighbour that is). I definitely saw the shape of the galaxy but little else. This being said, of all the "smudges" seen out there, it is one of my favourite ones!

On a different note, I went outside and saw it when my scope had just undergone collimation and it made a huge difference! I recommend keeping note of what you see and trying again at a later time. You might be surprised as to how different it could look!

Jim is right though about those pictures in magazines and even the shots shared on this very forum. We forget that what we see in pictures can't really be seen with the eye alone.

Isabelle

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Seeing much detail in M31 is difficult. One of the broad dust lanes is relatively easy under dark skies, there are some brighter knots and the satellite galaxies of course. We are lucky that there is a large galaxy so close to our own, but it is a shame that it is not face-on to us. That would have been amazing.

Naked eye observing is very different to photography. It is a much more contemplative experience in my opinion. Taking some relaxed time with the universe is wonderful. When you find a new object it is important to spend time looking rather than rushing off to the next object. It is amazing how much detail sometimes appears if you slow down.

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Thanks for the replies guys ... yes, I think expectations are too high (mine included), I'll be buying a collimation eyepiece as the first piece of kit, though the scope is 6inch f8 so "slow". I think you're right Jonathan, I need to develop observer skills, still it's good I'm finding stuff & gradually increasing my range. A darker site found would help too

Steve

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I am sure you must have found it, from your description. BTW, M31 is not a low surface brightness galaxy. Try M101 (not while it is low in the sky), and then you will see what low surface brightness means. Most difficult one to date: NGC 147. Very vague brightening of the background, only found from a very dark site under good conditions with my C8. Many look in vain for it, its surface brightness is so low.

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I think you are right on two counts Steve, if you are looking in the right place (and it sounds much like you are in the right vacinity) then you have for sure found M31 and secondly that expectation will be the killer.

When I first hunted M31 in my modest 5" reflector I was not expecting to see very much at all, having like many others seen the glossy bright pictures from Hubble, internet and books, I knew very well NOT to expect to see this with the eye. The thrill really is (for me)in:

a) Finding it for yourself

:) Then confirming you are seeing what you think it is

c) Going in with a low expectation only to be pleasantly surprised by the view (much better than the other way round, I always just assume I'm a numpty and as a pessimist can only ever be occasionally impressed!)

d) Taking stock of what I've seen, the time taken for those precious photons to reach me, the unimaginable vastness of the object itself and the distance from me it is.

In this way as a 'hobby' astronomy will always occupy and impress me. It will only get better too :)

I'm sure for you this will just be the very beginning!

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You may have had M110, a smaller smudge than M31. If you have a longer focal length eyepiece such as a 32mm, both should be in the same field of view and easy to compare.

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Thanks for the encouragement, I'm sure Anweniel, there's a lot of sense in what you say. I need to get my observation skills back up too (not done this since a teen) and I suspect the more time spent will allow me to build truer expectations and to see more of what you do see. Lorne I'm certain it wasn't that because I swept around and only that was there (lots of light pollution there). Michael I'll hunt that next!

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A good dark site makes a terrific difference in what you can see. There is a dark site nearby and our group was amazed to see the full spread of M31 and M33 without instruments. The viewing is so good that it is easy to pick out clusters and rifts in the Milky Way.It really is worthwhile getting away from light pollution, if you can.

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Yep - that's my plan, I think my scope is restricted by the light pollution, and is performing well give the extent of that.

Steve

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Just to add to what has already been said. The sky condition makes a huge difference.

I viewed M31 at the start of October from my garden on a night when I could make out grey smudges of Milky Way in and around Cassiopeia and to me the view was outstanding. The centre was a dull off white glow and the outer part stretched to the limit of my 32mm EP. I next viewed it a couple of weeks later from the same observing site and all I saw was a slight grey smudge.

This really brought home to me how conditions dictate what you will see.

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Thanks Alan,

It was a night of poor conditions - I guess your scope is pretty much the same as my Skyliner 150p. I reckon I need to keep finding thigs & see how it progresses in terms of conditions etc.

Steve

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I lived in a city for a year and just moved to what could be called the middle of nowhere and this same target m31 has jumped out at me the last couple of weeks. dark skies is everything !!!! (besides apature). the sight of m31 here rivals the nebula in Orion (m42?)

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