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Is this the Andromeda galaxy M31?


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I've been looking recently for the Andromeda galaxy M31 - part of the confusion is I'm not sure what to expect, how bright/faint it is, visible or not to the naked eye or with binoculars? I wonder actually if it's a bit fainter than the Pleiades, for example? (I've just realised I should have looked up the relative magnitudes shouldn't I! 😂)

The other day through the scope (900mm/70mm refactor) I just made out a very faint smudge in roughly the right area of the sky... Similar I think through my 8x30 binoculars...

Last night I stuck my DSLR on a tripod in the garden and did a wide angle 30s exposure (hopefully these images are big & bright enough for you all):

In this first pic below I've marked the big W of Cassiopeia and the 3 stars in Andromeda with Mirach/Beta-Andromeda in the middle. The area of interest is circled in green (in fact I think you can already see M31 here!):

andromeda03a.jpg.4e6dd8668c1664a23ecfcb6f18f1f96e.jpg

 

In this next pic I've zoomed in:

We see Mirach/Beta-And. in green, Mu-And. in yellow, then two stars in blue... and then above that circled in orange... is that it, is that faint smudge the Andromeda galaxy M31?

andromeda04.jpg.6dca2c8d28fabc694860934dd63507fd.jpg

If I'm right then at least now I know what to expect and exactly where to look in the sky. I realise this is all really really basic, but assuming this is M31 I found it rather exciting to know there is a whole other galaxy floating (at some distance!) above my garden 😁

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You are correct the orange circle is the bright core of Andromeda M31. It is considerably fainter than the Pleiades, you need Bortle 5 skies or better and a moonless night to see it naked eye. Best views will be in binoculars as the galaxy spans 3 degrees, wider area than what your telescopes of 900mm focal length can show.

What is the light pollution where you live? This will have the greatest impact on the visibility of M31. 

 

 

Edited by Nik271
corrected the Bortle scale
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Your 70mm refractor won’t show much more than a fuzzy patch, but you should be able to see and make out that it is a galaxy. Don’t try to use any major magnification on it as it is best seen in the widest EP that you have. 32mm should show it best if you have one for best FOV, or binoculars also if you have some too. Best seen as said on dark nights without any moon in the sky. Haze and sky conditions can also play a part in how well it is seen.

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It is M31 in the orange circle. It is a lot fainter than Plaides. In a Bortle 6 sky, I could spot Plaides in my naked eyes very easily in my driveway that there are some light sources from neighbour's house and poles. But I can only see the patch of M31 lightly through a binocular or a telescope in my garden where is considered having less stray lights. 

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Yup, that’s M31. It’s fairly bright at mag 3.5 but that’s total, but most of the light does come from the core. The full extent is about as wide as the two stars below it (Nu and 32 And), you’ll need dark skies above all else to see its outskirts.

Most galaxies and nebulae are going to look like that but fainter.

And that’s not a bad image either.

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Nice!

If you get a UHC filter it will tease a little more detail. I have the Explore Scientific one... (and because I like the pretty box it comes in).

image.png.6b53d0107454efbf853bf9fdcb564f66.png

Edited by Philip R
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Looks like you've got M31 there.

For visual on smaller scopes, almost all DSO will be various flavours of white smudge.

I'm just starting out, but I've found that sketching is a great way of describing what you see.  You can then check the stars against stellarium or a star map to see if you were right.  It's also good fun, cheap an easy.  It also helps you actively observe and take in more detail imho.

Here's my sketch of M31 from a couple nights ago.  Done with a 130/650mm scope at x20 magnification.  Done with pencil and paper (well a cheap sketch kit from Lidl) and then an image of it inverted on my phone.

 

 

PSX_20221105_110017.jpg

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8 minutes ago, Ratlet said:

Looks like you've got M31 there.

For visual on smaller scopes, almost all DSO will be various flavours of white smudge.

I'm just starting out, but I've found that sketching is a great way of describing what you see.  You can then check the stars against stellarium or a star map to see if you were right.  It's also good fun, cheap an easy.  It also helps you actively observe and take in more detail imho.

Here's my sketch of M31 from a couple nights ago.  Done with a 130/650mm scope at x20 magnification.  Done with pencil and paper (well a cheap sketch kit from Lidl) and then an image of it inverted on my phone.

 

 

PSX_20221105_110017.jpg

Love this , I still like the use of a hand sketched observing report. It really helps you concentrate and tease out the detail of what you are seeing.

The only thing I would add is to calculate the field of view in degrees or minutes and add that to the info  as it helps if you move on to star hopping and you get an idea of how far you are moving the scope and also how big you expect an object to appear in the eyepiece.

Great job .

cheers

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Hi All,

Many thanks for the encouraging replies - I'm very pleased to know I'm at least looking for M31 in the right place, and that I wasn't imagining the smudge I'd seen! 🤣

To answer the question, I live in suburban Wokingham (UK) which according to FLO's "Clear Outside" app it Bortle 5.

Sod's law, I had to go back indoors for family duties after I took that pic and by the time I was allowed out to play again it had clouded over ☹ With more time I'd have zoomed in with the DSLR (not withstanding that that means capturing less light, more star trailing etc) and had another bash. I've no tracking yet but I've got the D5500 on a tripod, plus a Canon 450D on the scope - so I have room to play, to experiment and to learn while I consider future purchases.

Cheers 👍🍻🔭

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Your image is a fair approximation of the naked eye view from a dark site, except that the background sky would be darker. (It wouldn't be a dark site if that weren't the case!) It can be seen as a short, faint, thin streak very much as it appears in your picture. It takes a large telescope to make out the distinct dust lanes but a large telescope can, because of its focal length, only show a small portion of the galaxy so, in some ways, the binocular view might be considered the best. The key thing is to find a dark site with good transparency and with the galaxy high in the sky. This is important.

Olly

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On 05/11/2022 at 10:06, allworlds said:

The full extent is about as wide as the two stars below it (Nu and 32 And)

Just as a matter of interest, I was just browsing Astro Backyard and stumbled upon this landscape photo showing, among many other things, M31. Comparing it with my photo can see now what you mean about the extent of M31 vs. Nu & 32 Andromeda👍

I'm still itching to get back out there but literally have not had a chance in the last few days due to clouds and rubbish weather ☹️🙏🔭😂

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I used to show M31 to visitors. Always using binoculars.
Explaining how it is a big object in the sky, bigger than the moon, but 99% of people in the UK have never seen it.
A comment on our lack of dark adaption due to extraneous lighting and of course our light polluted skies.
 

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On 08/11/2022 at 01:55, LukeSkywatcher said:

M31 is often a naked eye object from my location. Conditions have to be perfect though.

Some 50 years ago I vividly remember seeing M31 sticking out like a sore thumb from a location somewhere within the Scottish Highlands SW of Wick.

As in many places now... Bortle 10 and rising rapidly 😞 

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6 hours ago, SthBohemia said:

Some 50 years ago I vividly remember seeing M31 sticking out like a sore thumb from a location somewhere within the Scottish Highlands SW of Wick.

As in many places now... Bortle 10 and rising rapidly 😞 

I used to travel all over northern Scotland fishing for Salmon and sea trout and on one occasion we cycled on dirt tracks for miles into the middle of Rannoch moor. The skies were heavenly and it was so dark that you couldn’t see each  other despite being only feet away.

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On 05/11/2022 at 16:51, imakebeer said:

I'm very pleased to know I'm at least looking for M31 in the right place, and that I wasn't imagining the smudge I'd seen!

Have you considered using a phone app like SkySafari or SkEye (android only). These can readily tell you what you are looking at.

SkEye has a PUSH-TO functionality too so you can attach it to your scope, calibrate and then it will guide you to move your scope to the point you are interested in.

Edited by AstroMuni
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29 minutes ago, AstroMuni said:

Have you considered using a phone app like SkySafari or SkEye (android only). These can readily tell you what you are looking at.

SkEye has a PUSH-TO functionality too so you can attach it to your scope, calibrate and then it will guide you to move your scope to the point you are interested in.

I use Stellarium on my mobile, but I might take a look at SkEye as the push-to sounds interesting. I think my initial uncertainty came down to the fact that I wasn't sure what to expect in the eyepiece - now I understand that I feel like I've got the scent of M31, if only the clouds would clear for a couple of nights! I've also twigged now to check the relative magnitude of this and other targets, and if I do end up going for a much larger aperture scope then perhaps the smudge I've seen so far will be a little more distinct given reasonable seeing.

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Yes that is M31 indeed buddy as said before try and get to a dark site to see it better and also make sure your eyes are dark adapted to get hr best out of any DSO no phones tablets etc etc I find that in my 8” M31 is clearly visible with texture and some structure and in complete contrast through my ST80 (which frames it beautifully ) you can see the outer reaches better as you can percept the true darkness behind it when you can see the outer reaches it’s a differnent view and nowhere near as much structure of course however beautiful in its own right 🙂🙂

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1 hour ago, imakebeer said:

I wasn't sure what to expect in the eyepiece

DSOs with better magnitude appear as fuzzy blobs in binos in my Bortle 6 skies and on a clear night you might just be able to see M31 with the naked eye using averted vision. The Orion Nebula is possibly the only one that you can make out as having some structure.

Try this site to simulate what it would look like https://www.stelvision.com/astro/telescope-simulator/

Edited by AstroMuni
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3 hours ago, AstroMuni said:

Try this site to simulate what it would look like https://www.stelvision.com/astro/telescope-simulator/

That's quite good 👍 When I put in the details of my scope and eyepiece it wasn't too far off the smudge I saw - in reality it wasn't quite as bright as the simulation, but I suppose they're not factoring in Bortle 5 (I believe) in my location, the seeing at the time, how adjusted my eyes were or not etc etc etc. Also interesting to note though the difference in the picture when I enter detail of a 150mm f/5 Newt!

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Speaking of the Andromeda galaxy, I hope you don't mind if I ask about one of my pictures here. I am reasonably sure that it is the Andromeda galaxy, because when I zoom in I think I can almost see the clouds around the edges.  But I would appreciate some conformation, and if not, some suggestions about what else it might be. I'm using a Maksutov-Cassegrain 750x60mm telescope and an Android phone (4 years old) with the standard camera app.AndromedaOrSaturn.thumb.jpg.69c07a91d4b15af9452cc9a555ee47f3.jpg

 

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