Getting Messier 31 in your sights
Make sure you're equipped for the very best views
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.