Get­ting Messier 31 in your sights

Make sure you're equipped for the very best views

All About Space - - Stargazer -

If your eyes refuse to show you M31, just cen­tre Mirach in your binoc­u­lars and pan up­wards very, very slowly. M31 will be there, a misty oval of grey light. If you have a small tele­scope it will show you M31 in even more de­tail. If the night is very dark you should be able to see hints of dark dust lanes in the galaxy, which will prob­a­bly over­flow your eye­piece’s field of view.

Get dark adapted! It’s im­por­tant to let your eyes adapt prop­erly. M31's light is spread over a wide area and any light pol­lu­tion or moon­light will hide it from view.

Find Cas­siopeia First, find Cas­siopeia, a W-shaped con­stel­la­tion high in the east late in the evening. Then lo­cate the up­side-down ‘Y’ of Perseus di­rectly be­low it.

Seek a smudge Look for an elon­gated smudge of light a short dis­tance above Mirach. This is Messier 31. Use averted vi­sion if you don’t see it right away.

Up­grade to a small tele­scope Through a small tele­scope Messier 31 will look much brighter. You might even see one or both of its small satel­lite gal­ax­ies, M32 and M110.

Use star hop­ping to your ad­van­tage Start­ing at Mir­fak, the cen­tral star in Perseus, slowly ‘star hop’ two stars along to the right to Mirach in An­dromeda.

Use binoc­u­lars Use binoc­u­lars if you can’t see M31 with just your eyes. You will see it as a dis­tinct oval blur that is grey-white in colour.

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