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The Hidden Lives of Galaxies - Seasonal Guide Posts for Galaxies

Seasonal Guide Posts for Galaxies: For the Telescope

Season

Object

Name

Constellation

Morphology

Rating

Autumn

M31

Andromeda Galaxy

Andromeda

Spiral

4

 

M32

Companion to M3

Andromeda

Elliptical

2

           

Winter

M33

Triangulum Galaxy

Triangulum

Spiral

3

           

Spring

M81

 

Ursa Major

Spiral

3

 

M82

 

Ursa Major

Peculiar

2

Now to find the Andromeda Galaxy, locate the Great Square overhead. From the northeast corner, find 3 bright stars in a long line, arcing across the sky west to east, just south of Cassiopeia. From the middle of these 3 stars go north towards Cassiopeia past 1 star to a second star, in a slightly curving line. Through a telescope, the galaxy looks like a bright oval embedded in the center of a long swath of light, which extends across the field of view. Off to the south, and a bit east, is what looks like an oversized star making a right triangle with 2 faint stars. This is the companion galaxy, M32. Increasing magnification, you can see it is an egg-shaped cloud of light. Next, to locate the Triangulum Galaxy, find the Great Square high in the east. From the northeast corner, find 3 bright stars in a long line arcing across the sky west to east just below Cassiopeia. Down and to the left of the second and third stars you’ll find 3 stars forming a narrow triangle pointing towards the southwest. This is the constellation Triangulum. Use the distance from the northernmost star of this triangle to the point of the triangle as a yardstick. Half this distance up and to the right from the point is a very faint star. Past this star half as far is M33. Four stars in the shape of a "kite" should be visible in the telescope. The galaxy will look like a large, but very faint patch of light in this kite. Be sure to use your lowest power. Finally, to locate M81 and M82, look for the Big Dipper, and locate the 4 stars which make up the bowl of the Dipper. Start from the lower handle end of the bowl, and imagine a line running diagonally upward across the bowl to the opposite side of the bowl. Continue on this path until you reach M81 and M82. The 2 galaxies look like 2 fuzzy spots of light. The one to the south, away from Polaris, is M81. It has an obvious oval shape. M82 is thin and pencil-shaped, looking like a string of pearls.




 

A service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/GSFC

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