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Astronomy Picture of the Day
Search Results for "Andromeda"




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Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2024 March 9 - Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks in Northern Spring
Explanation: As spring approaches for northern skygazers, Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is growing brighter. Currently visible with small telescopes and binoculars, the Halley-type comet could reach naked eye visibility in the coming weeks. Seen despite a foggy atmosphere, the comet's green coma and long tail hover near the horizon in this well-composed deep night skyscape from Revuca, Slovakia recorded on March 5. M31, also known as the Andromeda galaxy, and bright yellowish star Mirach, beta star of the constellation Andromeda, hang in the sky above the comet. The Andromeda galaxy is some 2.5 million light-years beyond the Milky Way. Comet Pons-Brooks is a periodic visitor to the inner Solar System and less than 14 light-minutes away. Reaching its perihelion on April 21, this comet should be visible in the sky during the April 8 total solar eclipse.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2024 January 18 - Northern Lights from the Stratosphere
Explanation: Northern lights shine in this night skyview from planet Earth's stratosphere, captured on January 15. The single, 5 second exposure was made with a hand-held camera on board an aircraft above Winnipeg, Canada. During the exposure, terrestrial lights below leave colorful trails along the direction of motion of the speeding aircraft. Above the more distant horizon, energetic particles accelerated along Earth's magnetic field at the planet's polar regions excite atomic oxygen to create the shimmering display of Aurora Borealis. The aurora's characteristic greenish hue is generated at altitudes of 100-300 kilometers and red at even higher altitudes and lower atmospheric densities. The luminous glow of faint stars along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy arcs through the night, while the Andromeda galaxy extends this northern skyview to extragalactic space. A diffuse hint of Andromeda, the closest large spiral to the Milky Way, can just be seen to the upper left.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 December 27 – Rainbow Aurora over Icelandic Waterfall
Explanation: Yes, but can your aurora do this? First, yes, auroras can look like rainbows even though they are completely different phenomena. Auroras are caused by Sun-created particles being channeled into Earth's atmosphere by Earth's magnetic field, and create colors by exciting atoms at different heights. Conversely, rainbows are created by sunlight backscattering off falling raindrops, and different colors are refracted by slightly different angles. Unfortunately, auroras can’t create waterfalls, but if you plan well and are lucky enough, you can photograph them together. The featured picture is composed of several images taken on the same night last November near the Skógafoss waterfall in Iceland. The planning centered on capturing the central band of our Milky Way galaxy over the picturesque cascade. By luck, a spectacular aurora soon appeared just below the curving arch of the Milky Way. Far in the background, the Pleiades star cluster and the Andromeda galaxy can be found.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 December 12 – Aurora and Milky Way over Norway
Explanation: What are these two giant arches across the sky? Perhaps the more familiar one, on the left, is the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. This grand disk of stars and nebulas here appears to encircle much of the southern sky. Visible below the stellar arch is the rusty-orange planet Mars and the extended Andromeda galaxy. But this night had more! For a few minutes during this cold arctic night, a second giant arch appeared encircling part of the northern sky: an aurora. Auroras are much closer than stars as they are composed of glowing air high in Earth's atmosphere. Visible outside the green auroral arch is the group of stars popularly known as the Big Dipper. The featured digital composite of 20 images was captured in mid-November 2022 over the Lofoten Islands in Norway.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 November 13 – Andromeda over the Alps
Explanation: Have you ever seen the Andromeda galaxy? Although M31 appears as a faint and fuzzy blob to the unaided eye, the light you see will be over two million years old, making it likely the oldest light you ever will see directly. The featured image captured Andromeda just before it set behind the Swiss Alps early last year. As cool as it may be to see this neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way with your own eyes, long duration camera exposures can pick up many faint and breathtaking details. The image is composite of foreground and background images taken consecutively with the same camera and from the same location. Recent data indicate that our Milky Way Galaxy will collide and coalesce with Andromeda galaxy in a few billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 November 2 - The Fornax Cluster of Galaxies
Explanation: Named for the southern constellation toward which most of its galaxies can be found, the Fornax Cluster is one of the closest clusters of galaxies. About 62 million light-years away, it's over 20 times more distant than our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy, but only about 10 percent farther along than the better known and more populated Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Seen across this three degree wide field-of-view, almost every yellowish splotch on the image is an elliptical galaxy in the Fornax cluster. Elliptical galaxies NGC 1399 and NGC 1404 are the dominant, bright cluster members toward the bottom center. A standout, large barred spiral galaxy, NGC 1365, is visible on the upper right as a prominent Fornax cluster member.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 October 7 - The Once and Future Stars of Andromeda
Explanation: This picture of Andromeda shows not only where stars are now, but where stars will be. The big, beautiful Andromeda Galaxy, M31, is a spiral galaxy a mere 2.5 million light-years away. Image data from space-based and ground-based observatories have been combined here to produce this intriguing composite view of Andromeda at wavelengths both inside and outside normally visible light. The visible light shows where M31's stars are now, highlighted in white and blue hues and imaged by the Hubble, Subaru, and Mayall telescopes. The infrared light shows where M31's future stars will soon form, highlighted in orange hues and imaged by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The infrared light tracks enormous lanes of dust, warmed by stars, sweeping along Andromeda's spiral arms. This dust is a tracer of the galaxy's vast interstellar gas, raw material for future star formation. Of course, the new stars will likely form over the next hundred million years or so. That's well before Andromeda merges with our Milky Way Galaxy in about 5 billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 October 6 - Edwin Hubble Discovers the Universe
Explanation: How big is our universe? This question, among others, was debated by two leading astronomers in 1920 in what has since become known as astronomy's Great Debate. Many astronomers then believed that our Milky Way Galaxy was the entire universe. Many others, though, believed that our galaxy was just one of many. In the Great Debate, each argument was detailed, but no consensus was reached. The answer came over three years later with the detected variation of single spot in the Andromeda Nebula, as shown on the original glass discovery plate digitally reproduced here. When Edwin Hubble compared images, he noticed that this spot varied, and on October 6, 1923 wrote "VAR!" on the plate. The best explanation, Hubble knew, was that this spot was the image of a variable star that was very far away. So M31 was really the Andromeda Galaxy -- a galaxy possibly similar to our own. Annotated 100 years ago, the featured image may not be pretty, but the variable spot on it opened a window through which humanity gazed knowingly, for the first time, into a surprisingly vast cosmos.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 August 23 – The Meteor and the Galaxy
Explanation: It came from outer space. It -- in this case a sand-sized bit of a comet nucleus -- was likely ejected many years ago from Sun-orbiting Comet Swift-Tuttle, but then continued to orbit the Sun alone. When the Earth crossed through this orbit, the piece of comet debris impacted the atmosphere of our fair planet and was seen as a meteor. This meteor deteriorated, causing gases to be emitted that glowed in colors emitted by its component elements. The featured image was taken last week from Castilla La Mancha, Spain, during the peak night of the Perseids meteor shower. The picturesque meteor streak happened to appear in the only one of 50 frames that also included the Andromeda galaxy. Stars dot the frame, each much further away than the meteor. Compared to the stars, the Andromeda galaxy (M31) is, again, much further away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 August 16 - Arp 93: A Cosmic Embrace
Explanation: Locked in a cosmic embrace, two large galaxies are merging at the center of this sharp telescopic field of view. The interacting system cataloged as Arp 93 is some 200 million light-years distant toward the constellation Aquarius in planet Earth's sky. Individually the galaxies are identified as NGC 7285 (right) and NGC 7284. Their bright cores are still separated by about 20,000 light-years or so, but a massive tidal stream, a result of their ongoing gravitational interaction, extends over 200,000 light-years toward the bottom of the frame. Interacting galaxies do look peculiar, but are now understood to be common in the Universe. In fact, closer to home, the large spiral Andromeda Galaxy is known to be approaching the Milky Way. Arp 93 may well present an analog of their distant future cosmic embrace.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 May 31 – Simulation: A Disk Galaxy Forms
Explanation: How did we get here? We know that we live on a planet orbiting a star orbiting a galaxy, but how did all of this form? Since our universe moves too slowly to watch, faster-moving computer simulations are created to help find out. Specifically, this featured video from the IllustrisTNG collaboration tracks gas from the early universe (redshift 12) until today (redshift 0). As the simulation begins, ambient gas falls into and accumulates in a region of relatively high gravity. After a few billion years, a well-defined center materializes from a strange and fascinating cosmic dance. Gas blobs -- some representing small satellite galaxies -- continue to fall into and become absorbed by the rotating galaxy as the present epoch is reached and the video ends. For the Milky Way Galaxy, however, big mergers may not be over -- recent evidence indicates that our large spiral disk Galaxy will collide and coalesce with the slightly larger Andromeda spiral disk galaxy in the next few billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 April 12 - NGC 206 and the Star Clouds of Andromeda
Explanation: The large stellar association cataloged as NGC 206 is nestled within the dusty arms of the neighboring Andromeda galaxy along with the galaxy's pinkish star-forming regions. Also known as M31, the spiral galaxy is a mere 2.5 million light-years away. NGC 206 is found right of center in this sharp and detailed close-up of the southwestern extent of Andromeda's disk. The bright, blue stars of NGC 206 indicate its youth. In fact, its youngest massive stars are less than 10 million years old. Much larger than the open or galactic clusters of young stars in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy, NGC 206 spans about 4,000 light-years. That's comparable in size to the giant stellar nurseries NGC 604 in nearby spiral M33 and the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 March 22 – M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: How far can you see? The most distant object easily visible to the unaided eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy, over two million light-years away. Without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy appears as an unremarkable, faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. But a bright white nucleus, dark winding dust lanes, luminous blue spiral arms, and bright red emission nebulas are recorded in this stunning fifteen-hour telescopic digital mosaic of our closest major galactic neighbor. But how do we know this spiral nebula is really so far away? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920. M31's great distance was determined in the 1920s by observations that resolved individual stars that changed their brightness in a way that gave up their true distance. The result proved that Andromeda is just like our Milky Way Galaxy -- a conclusion making the rest of the universe much more vast than had ever been previously imagined.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 February 15 – Airglow Sky over France
Explanation: This unusual sky was both familiar and unfamiliar. The photographer's mission was to capture the arch of the familiar central band of our Milky Way Galaxy over a picturesque medieval manor. The surprise was that on this January evening, the foreground sky was found glowing in a beautiful but unfamiliar manner. The striped bands are called airglow and they result from air high in Earth's atmosphere being excited by the Sun's light and emitting a faint light of its own. The bands cross the entire sky -- their curved appearance is due to the extremely wide angle of the camera lens. In the foreground lies Château de Losse in southwest France. Other familiar sky delights dot the distant background including the bright white star Sirius, the orange planet Mars, the blue Pleiades star cluster, the red California Nebula, and, on the far right, the extended Andromeda Galaxy. The initial mission was also successful: across the top of the frame is the arching band of our Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 January 17 – Unexpected Clouds Toward the Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Why are there oxygen-emitting arcs near the direction of the Andromeda galaxy? No one is sure. The gas arcs, shown in blue, were discovered and first confirmed by amateur astronomers just last year. The two main origin hypotheses for the arcs are that they really are close to Andromeda (M31), or that they are just coincidentally placed gas filaments in our Milky Way galaxy. Adding to the mystery is that arcs were not seen in previous deep images of M31 taken primarily in light emitted by hydrogen, and that other, more distant galaxies have not been generally noted as showing similar oxygen-emitting structures. Dedicated amateurs using commercial telescopes made this discovery because, in part, professional telescopes usually investigate angularly small patches of the night sky, whereas these arcs span several times the angular size of the full moon. Future observations -- both in light emitted by oxygen and by other elements -- are sure to follow.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 December 13 - An Artful Sky over Lofoten Islands
Explanation: Can the night sky be both art and science? If so, perhaps the featured image is an example. The digital panorama was composed of 10 landscape and 10 sky images all taken on the same night, from the same location, and with the same camera. Iconic features in the image have been artfully brightened, and the ground nearby was artfully illuminated. Visible in the foreground is the creative photographer anchoring an amazing view from the rugged Lofoten Islands of Norway, two months ago, by holding a lamp. Far in the distance are three prominent arches: our Milky Way Galaxy on the left, while a scientifically-unusual double-arced aurora is documented on the right. A meteor is highlighted between them. Other notable skylights include, left to right, the Andromeda Galaxy, the planet Jupiter, the star Vega, and the stars that compose the Big Dipper asterism.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 November 3 - M33: The Triangulum Galaxy
Explanation: The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from the Milky Way, this sharp image combines data from telescopes on and around planet Earth to show off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions along the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 1 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 October 24 - Clouds Around Galaxy Andromeda
Explanation: What are those red clouds surrounding the Andromeda galaxy? This galaxy, M31, is often imaged by planet Earth-based astronomers. As the nearest large spiral galaxy, it is a familiar sight with dark dust lanes, bright yellowish core, and spiral arms traced by clouds of bright blue stars. A mosaic of well-exposed broad and narrow-band image data, this deep portrait of our neighboring island universe offers strikingly unfamiliar features though, faint reddish clouds of glowing ionized hydrogen gas in the same wide field of view. Most of the ionized hydrogen clouds surely lie in the foreground of the scene, well within our Milky Way Galaxy. They are likely associated with the pervasive, dusty interstellar cirrus clouds scattered hundreds of light-years above our own galactic plane. Some of the clouds, however, occur right in the Andromeda galaxy itself, and some in M110, the small galaxy just below.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 October 21 - Andromeda in Southern Skies
Explanation: Looking north from southern New Zealand, the Andromeda Galaxy never gets more than about five degrees above the horizon. As spring comes to the southern hemisphere, in late September Andromeda is highest in the sky around midnight though. In a single 30 second exposure this telephoto image tracked the stars to capture the closest large spiral galaxy from Mount John Observatory as it climbed just over the rugged peaks of the south island's Southern Alps. In the foreground, stars are reflected in the still waters of Lake Alexandrina. Also known as M31, the Andromeda Galaxy is one of the brightest objects in the Messier catalog, usually visible to the unaided eye as a small, faint, fuzzy patch. But this clear, dark sky and long exposure reveal the galaxy's greater extent in planet Earth's night, spanning nearly 6 full moons.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 August 7 - Meteor before Galaxy
Explanation: What's that green streak in front of the Andromeda galaxy? A meteor. While photographing the Andromeda galaxy in 2016, near the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, a small pebble from deep space crossed right in front of our Milky Way Galaxy's far-distant companion. The small meteor took only a fraction of a second to pass through this 10-degree field. The meteor flared several times while braking violently upon entering Earth's atmosphere. The green color was created, at least in part, by the meteor's gas glowing as it vaporized. Although the exposure was timed to catch a Perseid meteor, the orientation of the imaged streak seems a better match to a meteor from the Southern Delta Aquariids, a meteor shower that peaked a few weeks earlier. Not coincidentally, the Perseid Meteor Shower peaks later this week, although this year the meteors will have to outshine a sky brightened by a nearly full moon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 July 27 - Crepuscular Moon Rays over Denmark
Explanation: This moon made quite an entrance. Typically, a moonrise is quiet and serene. Taking a few minutes to fully peek above the horizon, Earth's largest orbital companion can remain relatively obscure until it rises high in the nighttime sky. About a week ago, however, and despite being only half lit by the Sun, this rising moon put on a show -- at least from this location. The reason was that, as seen from Limfjord in Nykøbing Mors, Denmark, the moon rose below scattered clouds near the horizon. The result, captured here in a single exposure, was that moonlight poured through gaps in the clouds to created what are called crepuscular rays. These rays can fan out dramatically across the sky when starting near the horizon, and can even appear to converge on the other side of the sky. Well behind our Moon, stars from our Milky Way galaxy dot the background, and our galaxy's largest orbital companion -- the Andromeda galaxy -- can be found on the upper left.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 July 11 - Andromeda over the Sahara Desert
Explanation: What is the oldest thing you can see? At 2.5 million light years distant, the answer for the unaided eye is the Andromeda galaxy, because its photons are 2.5 million years old when they reach you. Most other apparent denizens of the night sky -- stars, clusters, and nebulae -- appear as they were only a few hundred to a few thousand years ago, as they lie well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Given its distance, light from Andromeda is likely also the farthest object that you can see. Also known as M31, the Andromeda Galaxy dominates the center of the featured zoomed image, taken from the Sahara Desert in Morocco last month. The featured image is a combination of three background and one foreground exposure -- all taken with the same camera and from the same location and on the same calendar day -- with the foreground image taken during the evening blue hour. M110, a satellite galaxy of Andromenda is visible just above and to the left of M31's core. As cool as it may be to see this neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way with your own eyes, long duration camera exposures can pick up many faint and breathtaking details. Recent data indicates that our Milky Way Galaxy will collide and combine with the similarly-sized Andromeda galaxy in a few billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 June 6 - Milky Way Galaxy Doomed: Collision with Andromeda Pending
Explanation: Will our Milky Way Galaxy collide one day with its larger neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy? Most likely, yes. Careful plotting of slight displacements of M31's stars relative to background galaxies on recent Hubble Space Telescope images indicate that the center of M31 could be on a direct collision course with the center of our home galaxy. Still, the errors in sideways velocity appear sufficiently large to admit a good chance that the central parts of the two galaxies will miss, slightly, but will become close enough for their outer halos to become gravitationally entangled. Once that happens, the two galaxies will become bound, dance around, and eventually merge to become one large elliptical galaxy -- over the next few billion years. Pictured here is a combination of images depicting the sky of a world (Earth?) in the distant future when the outer parts of each galaxy begin to collide. The exact future of our Milky Way and the entire surrounding Local Group of Galaxies is likely to remain an active topic of research for years to come.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 June 3 - A 10,000 Kilometer Galactic Bridge
Explanation: With this creative astro-collaboration you can follow the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy as it bridges northern and southern hemisphere skies. To construct the expansive composite nightscape, skies over Observatorio El Sauce in Chile (top) were imaged on the same date but 6 hours later than the skies over the Saint-Veran observatory in the French Alps. The 6 hour time-lag allowed Earth's rotation to align the Milky Way above domes at the two sites. All exposures were made with similar cameras and lenses mounted on simple tripods. A faint greenish airglow is visible in the dark Chilean sky that also features the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds near the observatory dome. In the French Alps light pollution is apparent, but the distant Andromeda Galaxy can still be spotted near the horizon in the northern night. On planet Earth the two observatories are separated by about 10,000 kilometers.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 May 23 - The Once and Future Stars of Andromeda
Explanation: This picture of Andromeda shows not only where stars are now, but where stars will soon be. Of course, the big, beautiful Andromeda Galaxy, M31, is a spiral galaxy -- and a mere 2.5 million light-years away. Both space-based and ground-based observatories have been here combined to produce this intriguing composite image of Andromeda, at wavelengths both inside and outside normally visible light. The visible light shows where M31's stars are now -- as highlighted in white and blue hues and imaged by the Hubble, Subaru, and Mayall telescopes. The infrared light shows where M31's future stars will soon form -- as highlighted in orange hues and imaged by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The infrared light tracks enormous lanes of dust, warmed by stars, sweeping along Andromeda's spiral arms. This dust is a tracer of the galaxy's vast interstellar gas -- the raw material for future star formation. These new stars will likely form over the next hundred million years, surely well before Andromeda merges with our Milky Way Galaxy in about 5 billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 March 1 - Dueling Bands in the Night
Explanation: What are these two bands in the sky? The more commonly seen band is the one on the right and is the central band of our Milky Way galaxy. Our Sun orbits in the disk of this spiral galaxy, so that from inside, this disk appears as a band of comparable brightness all the way around the sky. The Milky Way band can also be seen all year -- if out away from city lights. The less commonly seem band, on the left, is zodiacal light -- sunlight reflected from dust orbiting the Sun in our Solar System. Zodiacal light is brightest near the Sun and so is best seen just before sunrise or just after sunset. On some evenings in the north, particularly during the months of March and April, this ribbon of zodiacal light can appear quite prominent after sunset. It was determined only this century that zodiacal dust was mostly expelled by comets that have passed near Jupiter. Only on certain times of the year will the two bands be seen side by side, in parts of the sky, like this. The featured image, including the Andromeda galaxy and a meteor, was captured in late January over a frozen lake in Kanding, Sichuan, China.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 February 26 - Nearby Spiral Galaxy NGC 4945
Explanation: Large spiral galaxy NGC 4945 is seen nearly edge-on in this cosmic galaxy close-up. It's almost the size of our Milky Way Galaxy. NGC 4945's own dusty disk, young blue star clusters, and pink star forming regions stand out in the colorful telescopic frame. About 13 million light-years distant toward the expansive southern constellation Centaurus, NGC 4945 is only about six times farther away than Andromeda, the nearest large spiral galaxy to the Milky Way. Though this galaxy's central region is largely hidden from view for optical telescopes, X-ray and infrared observations indicate significant high energy emission and star formation in the core of NGC 4945. Its obscured but active nucleus qualifies the gorgeous island universe as a Seyfert galaxy and home to a central supermassive black hole.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 January 29 - The Fornax Cluster of Galaxies
Explanation: Named for the southern constellation toward which most of its galaxies can be found, the Fornax Cluster is one of the closest clusters of galaxies. About 62 million light-years away, it is almost 20 times more distant than our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy, and only about 10 percent farther than the better known and more populated Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Seen across this two degree wide field-of-view, almost every yellowish splotch on the image is an elliptical galaxy in the Fornax cluster. Elliptical galaxies NGC 1399 and NGC 1404 are the dominant, bright cluster members toward the upper left (but not the spiky foreground stars). A standout barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is visible on the lower right as a prominent Fornax cluster member.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 January 19 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: The most distant object easily visible to the unaided eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy. Even at some two and a half million light-years distant, this immense spiral galaxy -- spanning over 200,000 light years -- is visible, although as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. In contrast, a bright yellow nucleus, dark winding dust lanes, and expansive spiral arms dotted with blue star clusters and red nebulae, are recorded in this stunning telescopic image which combines data from orbiting Hubble with ground-based images from Subaru and Mayall. In only about 5 billion years, the Andromeda galaxy may be even easier to see -- as it will likely span the entire night sky -- just before it merges with our Milky Way Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 November 12 - M33: The Triangulum Galaxy
Explanation: The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp image shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions along the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 4 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 November 6 - The Galaxy Between Two Friends
Explanation: On an August night two friends enjoyed this view after a day's hike on the Plateau d'Emparis in the French Alps. At 2400 meters altitude the sky was clear. Light from a setting moon illuminates the foreground captured in the simple vertical panorama of images. Along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy stars of Cassiopeia and Perseus shine along the panorama's left edge. But seen as a faint cloud with a brighter core, the Andromeda galaxy, stands directly above the two friends in the night. The nearest large spiral galaxy, Andromeda is about 2.5 million light-years beyond the stars of the Milky Way. Adding to the evening's shared extragalactic perspective, the fainter fuzzy spot in the sky right between them is M33, also known as the Triangulum galaxy. Third largest in the local galaxy group, after Andromeda and Milky Way, the Triangulum galaxy is about 3 million light-years distant. On that night, the two friends stood about 3 light-nanoseconds apart.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 November 4 - NGC 147 and NGC 185
Explanation: Dwarf galaxies NGC 147 (left) and NGC 185 stand side by side in this sharp telescopic portrait. The two are not-often-imaged satellites of M31, the great spiral Andromeda Galaxy, some 2.5 million light-years away. Their separation on the sky, less than one degree across a pretty field of view, translates to only about 35 thousand light-years at Andromeda's distance, but Andromeda itself is found well outside this frame. Brighter and more famous satellite galaxies of Andromeda, M32 and M110, are seen closer to the great spiral. NGC 147 and NGC 185 have been identified as binary galaxies, forming a gravitationally stable binary system. But recently discovered faint dwarf galaxy Cassiopeia II also seems to be part of their system, forming a gravitationally bound group within Andromeda's intriguing population of small satellite galaxies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 September 8 - The Deep Sky Toward Andromeda
Explanation: What surrounds the Andromeda galaxy? Out in space, Andromeda (M31) is closely surrounded by several small satellite galaxies, and further out it is part of the Local Group of Galaxies -- of which our Milky Way galaxy is also a member. On the sky, however, gas clouds local to our Milky Way appear to surround M31 -- not unlike how water clouds in Earth's atmosphere may appear to encompass our Moon. The gas clouds toward Andromeda, however, are usually too faint to see. Enter the featured 45-degree long image -- one of the deeper images yet taken of the broader Andromeda region. This image, sensitive to light specifically emitted by hydrogen gas, shows these faint and unfamiliar clouds in tremendous detail. But the image captures more. At the image top is the Triangulum galaxy (M33), the third largest galaxy in the Local Group and the furthest object that can be seen with the unaided eye. Below M33 is the bright Milky-Way star Mirach. The image is the digital accumulation of several long exposures taken from 2018 to 2021 from Pulsnitz, Germany.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 September 7 - NGC 520: Colliding Galaxies from Hubble
Explanation: Is this one galaxy or two? The jumble of stars, gas, and dust that is NGC 520 is now thought to incorporate the remains of two separate disk galaxies. A defining component of NGC 520 -- as seen in great detail in the featured image from the Hubble Space Telescope -- is its band of intricately interlaced dust running vertically down the spine of the colliding galaxies. A similar looking collision might be expected in a few billion years when our disk Milky Way Galaxy to collides with our large-disk galactic neighbor Andromeda (M31). The collision that defines NGC 520 started about 300 million years ago. Also known as Arp 157, NGC 520 lies about 100 million light years distant, spans about 100 thousand light years, and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Fish (Pisces). Although the speeds of stars in NGC 520 are fast, the distances are so vast that the battling pair will surely not change its shape noticeably during our lifetimes.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 August 14 - Island Universe, Cosmic Sand
Explanation: Stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy are scattered through this eye-catching field of view. From the early hours after midnight on August 13, the 30 second exposure of the night sky over Busko-Zdroj, Poland records the colorful and bright trail of a Perseid meteor. Seen near the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower it flashes from lower left to upper right. The hurtling grain of cosmic sand, a piece of dust from periodic comet Swift-Tuttle, vaporized as it passed through planet Earth's atmosphere at almost 60 kilometers per second. Just above and right of center, well beyond the stars of the Milky Way, lies the island universe known as M31 or the Andromeda Galaxy. The Andromeda Galaxy is the most distant object easily visible to the naked-eye, about 2.5 million light-years away. The visible meteor trail begins only about 100 kilometers above Earth's surface, though. It points back to the meteor shower radiant in the constellation Perseus off the lower left edge of the frame. Follow this bright perseid meteor trail below and left to the stars of NGC 869and NGC 884, the double star cluster in Perseus.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 July 18 - The Andromeda Galaxy in Ultraviolet
Explanation: What does the Andromeda galaxy look like in ultraviolet light? Young blue stars circling the galactic center dominate. A mere 2.5 million light-years away, the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, really is just next door as large galaxies go. Spanning about 230,000 light-years, it took 11 different image fields from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) satellite telescope to produce this gorgeous portrait of the spiral galaxy in ultraviolet light in 2003. While its spiral arms stand out in visible light images, Andromeda's arms look more like rings in ultraviolet. The rings are sites of intense star formation and have been interpreted as evidence that Andromeda collided with its smaller neighboring elliptical galaxy M32 more than 200 million years ago. The Andromeda galaxy and our own comparable Milky Way galaxy are the most massive members of the Local Group of galaxies and are projected to collide in several billion years -- perhaps around the time that our Sun's atmosphere will expand to engulf the Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 June 25 - Andromeda in a Single Shot
Explanation: How far can you see? The Andromeda Galaxy, 2.5 million light years away, is the most distant object easily seen by the unaided eye. Other denizens of the night sky, like stars, clusters, and nebulae, are typically hundreds to thousands of light-years distant. That's far beyond the Solar System but well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Also known as M31, the external galaxy poses directly above a chimney in this well-planned deep night skyscape from an old mine in southern Portugal. The image was captured in a single exposure tracking the sky, so the foreground is slightly blurred by the camera's motion while Andromeda itself looms large. The galaxy's brighter central region, normally all that's visible to the naked-eye, can be seen extending to spiral arms with fainter outer reaches spanning over 4 full moons across the sky. Of course in only 5 billion years or so, the stars of Andromeda could span the entire night sky as the Andromeda Galaxy merges with the Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 April 18 - Rainbow Airglow over the Azores
Explanation: Why would the sky glow like a giant repeating rainbow? Airglow. Now air glows all of the time, but it is usually hard to see. A disturbance however -- like an approaching storm -- may cause noticeable rippling in the Earth's atmosphere. These gravity waves are oscillations in air analogous to those created when a rock is thrown in calm water. The long-duration exposure nearly along the vertical walls of airglow likely made the undulating structure particularly visible. OK, but where do the colors originate? The deep red glow likely originates from OH molecules about 87-kilometers high, excited by ultraviolet light from the Sun. The orange and green airglow is likely caused by sodium and oxygen atoms slightly higher up. The featured image was captured during a climb up Mount Pico in the Azores of Portugal. Ground lights originate from the island of Faial in the Atlantic Ocean. A spectacular sky is visible through this banded airglow, with the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy running up the image center, and M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, visible near the top left.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 January 13 - Arches Across an Arctic Sky
Explanation: What are these two giant arches across the sky? Perhaps the more familiar one, on the left, is the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. This grand disk of stars and nebulas here appears to encircle much of the southern sky. Visible below the stellar arch is the rusty-orange planet Mars and the extended Andromeda galaxy. For a few minutes during this cold arctic night, a second giant arch appeared to the right, encircling part of the northern sky: an aurora. Auroras are much closer than stars as they are composed of glowing air high in Earth's atmosphere. Visible outside the green auroral arch is the group of stars popularly known as the Big Dipper. The featured digital composite of 18 images was captured in mid-December over the Lofoten Islands in Norway.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 November 25 - Andromeda over Patagonia
Explanation: How far can you see? The Andromeda Galaxy at 2.5 million light years away is the most distant object easily seen with your unaided eye. Most other apparent denizens of the night sky -- stars, clusters, and nebulae -- typically range from a few hundred to a few thousand light-years away and lie well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Given its distance, light from Andromeda is likely also the oldest light that you can see. Also known as M31, the Andromeda Galaxy dominates the center of the featured zoomed image, taken from the dunes of Bahía Creek, Patagonia, in southern Argentina. The image is a combination of 45 background images with one foreground image -- all taken with the same camera and from the same location within 90 minutes. M110, a satellite galaxy of Andromenda is visible just below and to the left of M31's core. As cool as it may be to see this neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way with your own eyes, long duration camera exposures can pick up many faint and breathtaking details. Recent data indicates that our Milky Way Galaxy will collide and combine with the similarly-sized Andromeda galaxy in a few billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 October 21 - A Night Sky Vista from Sardinia
Explanation: How many famous sky objects can you find in this image? The featured dark sky composite combines over 60 exposures spanning over 220 degrees to create a veritable menagerie of night sky wonders. Visible celestial icons include the Belt of Orion, the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, the California Nebula, and bright stars Sirius and Betelgeuse. You can verify that you found these, if you did, by checking an annotated version of the image. A bit harder, though, is finding Polaris and the Big Dipper. Also discernible are several meteors from the Quandrantids meteor shower, red and green airglow, and two friends of the astrophotographer. The picture was captured in January from Sardinia, Italy. You can see sky wonders in your own night sky tonight -- including more meteors than usual -- because tonight is near peak of the yearly Orionids meteor shower.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 October 18 - UGC 1810: Wildly Interacting Galaxy from Hubble
Explanation: What's happening to this spiral galaxy? Although details remain uncertain, it surely has to do with an ongoing battle with its smaller galactic neighbor. The featured galaxy is labelled UGC 1810 by itself, but together with its collisional partner is known as Arp 273. The overall shape of UGC 1810 -- in particular its blue outer ring -- is likely a result of wild and violent gravitational interactions. This ring's blue color is caused by massive stars that are blue hot and have formed only in the past few million years. The inner galaxy appears older, redder, and threaded with cool filamentary dust. A few bright stars appear well in the foreground, unrelated to UGC 1810, while several galaxies are visible well in the background. Arp 273 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation of Andromeda. Quite likely, UGC 1810 will devour its galactic sidekick over the next billion years and settle into a classic spiral form.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 October 13 - Mars, Pleiades, and Andromeda over Stone Lions
Explanation: Three very different -- and very famous -- objects were all captured in a single frame last month. On the upper left is the bright blue Pleiades, perhaps the most famous cluster of stars on the night sky. The Pleiades (M45) is about 450 light years away and easily found a few degrees from Orion. On the upper right is the expansive Andromeda Galaxy, perhaps the most famous galaxy -- external to our own -- on the night sky. Andromeda (M31) is one of few objects visible to the unaided eye where you can see light that is millions of years old. In the middle is bright red Mars, perhaps the most famous planet on the night sky. Today Mars is at opposition, meaning that it is opposite the Sun, with the result that it is visible all night long. In the foreground is an ancient tomb in the Phygrian Valley in Turkey. The tomb, featuring two stone lions, is an impressive remnant of a powerful civilization that lived thousands of years ago. Mars, currently near its brightest, can be easily found toward the east just after sunset.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 September 25 - Moon over Andromeda
Explanation: The Great Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda (also known as M31), a mere 2.5 million light-years distant, is the closest large spiral to our own Milky Way. Andromeda is visible to the unaided eye as a small, faint, fuzzy patch, but because its surface brightness is so low, casual skygazers can't appreciate the galaxy's impressive extent in planet Earth's sky. This entertaining composite image compares the angular size of the nearby galaxy to a brighter, more familiar celestial sight. In it, a deep exposure of Andromeda, tracing beautiful blue star clusters in spiral arms far beyond the bright yellow core, is combined with a typical view of a nearly full Moon. Shown at the same angular scale, the Moon covers about 1/2 degree on the sky, while the galaxy is clearly several times that size. The deep Andromeda exposure also includes two bright satellite galaxies, M32 and M110 (below and right).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 September 3 - A Halo for Andromeda
Explanation: M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is the closest large spiral galaxy to our Milky Way. Some 2.5 million light-years distant it shines in Earth's night sky as a small, faint, elongated cloud just visible to the unaided eye. Invisible to the eye though, its enormous halo of hot ionized gas is represented in purplish hues for this digital illustration of our neighboring galaxy above rocky terrain. Mapped by Hubble Space Telescope observations of the absorption of ultraviolet light against distant quasars, the extent and make-up of Andromeda's gaseous halo has been recently determined by the AMIGA project. A reservoir of material for future star formation, Andromeda's halo of diffuse plasma was measured to extend around 1.3 million light-years or more from the galaxy. That's about half way to the Milky Way, likely putting it in contact with the diffuse gaseous halo of our own galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 July 26 – A Flight through the Hubble Ultra Deep Field
Explanation: What would it look like to fly through the distant universe? To find out, a team of astronomers estimated the relative distances to over 5,000 galaxies in one of the most distant fields of galaxies ever imaged: the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). Because it takes light a long time to cross the universe, most galaxies visible in the featured video are seen when the universe was only a fraction of its current age, were still forming, and have unusual shapes when compared to modern galaxies. No mature looking spiral galaxies such as our Milky Way or the Andromeda galaxy yet exist. Toward the end of the video the virtual observer flies past the farthest galaxies in the HUDF field, recorded to have a redshift past 8. This early class of low luminosity galaxies likely contained energetic stars emitting light that transformed much of the remaining normal matter in the universe from a cold gas to a hot ionized plasma.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 April 30 - Andromeda Island Universe
Explanation: The most distant object easily visible to the unaided eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy some two and a half million light-years away. But without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy - spanning over 200,000 light years - appears as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. In contrast, a bright yellow nucleus, dark winding dust lanes, expansive blue spiral arms and star clusters are recorded in this stunning telescopic image. While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers debated this fundamental concept 100 years ago. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying components of our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they instead "island universes", distant systems of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations of M31 in favor of Andromeda, island universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 April 26 - Edwin Hubble Discovers the Universe
Explanation: How big is our universe? This very question, among others, was debated by two leading astronomers 100 years ago today in what has become known as astronomy's Great Debate. Many astronomers then believed that our Milky Way Galaxy was the entire universe. Many others, though, believed that our galaxy was just one of many. In the Great Debate, each argument was detailed, but no consensus was reached. The answer came over three years later with the detected variation of single spot in the Andromeda Nebula, as shown on the original glass discovery plate digitally reproduced here. When Edwin Hubble compared images, he noticed that this spot varied, and so wrote "VAR!" on the plate. The best explanation, Hubble knew, was that this spot was the image of a variable star that was very far away. So M31 was really the Andromeda Galaxy -- a galaxy possibly similar to our own. The featured image may not be pretty, but the variable spot on it opened a door through which humanity gazed knowingly, for the first time, into a surprisingly vast cosmos.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 March 27 - A Little Drop of Galaxy
Explanation: A drop of water seems to hold an entire galaxy in this creative macro-astrophotograph. In the imaginative work of cosmic nature photography a close-up lens was used to image a previously made picture of a galaxy, viewed through a water drop suspended from a stem. A favorite of many telescope-wielding astroimagers, the galaxy is the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31. About 100,000 light-years across that majestic galaxy's spiral arms and dust lanes are curved and distorted in the image contained in the centimeter-sized droplet. Andromeda is some 2.5 million light-years distant, but this project was still carried out while spending time indoors.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 March 26 - Andromeda Station
Explanation: This surreal picture isn't from a special effects sci-fi movie. It is a digital composite of frames of the real Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, rising over a real mountain. Exposures tracking the galaxy and background stars have been digitally combined with separate exposures of the foreground terrain. All background and foreground exposures were made back to back with the same camera and telephoto lens on the same night from the same location. In the "Deepscape" combination they produce a stunning image that reveals a range of brightness and color that your eye can't quite see on its own. Still, it does look like you could ride a cable car up this mountain and get off at the station right next to Andromeda. But at 2.5 million light-years from Earth the big beautiful spiral galaxy really is a little out of reach as a destination. Don't worry, though. Just wait 5 billion years and the Andromeda Galaxy will come to you. This Andromeda Station is better known as Weisshorn, the highest peak of the ski area in Arosa, Switzerland.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 February 27 - Two Hemisphere Night Sky
Explanation: The Sun is hidden by a horizon that runs across the middle in this two hemisphere view of Earth's night sky. The digitally stitched mosaics were recorded from corresponding latitudes, one 29 degrees north and one 29 degrees south of the planet's equator. On top is the northern view from the IAC observatory at La Palma taken in February 2020. Below is a well-matched southern scene from the ESO La Silla Observatory recorded in April 2016. In this projection, the Milky Way runs almost vertically above and below the horizon. Its dark clouds and and bright nebulae are prominent near the galactic center in the lower half of the frame. In the upper half, brilliant Venus is immersed in zodiacal light. Sunlight faintly scattered by interplanetary dust, the zodiacal light traces the Solar System's ecliptic plane in a complete circle through the starry sky. Large telescope domes bulge along the inverted horizon from La Silla while at La Palma, multi-mirror Magic telescopes stand above center. Explore this two hemisphere night sky and you can also find the Andromeda Galaxy and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 December 31 - M33: The Triangulum Galaxy
Explanation: The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp image shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions along the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 7 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 November 20 - Arp 273: Battling Galaxies from Hubble
Explanation: What's happening to these spiral galaxies? Although details remain uncertain, there sure seems to be a titanic battle going on. The upper galaxy is labelled UGC 1810 by itself, but together with its collisional partners is known as Arp 273. The overall shape of the UGC 1810 -- in particular its blue outer ring -- is likely a result of wild and violent gravitational interactions. The blue color of the outer ring at the top is caused by massive stars that are blue hot and have formed only in the past few million years. The inner part of the upper galaxy -- itself an older spiral galaxy -- appears redder and threaded with cool filamentary dust. A few bright stars appear well in the foreground, unrelated to colliding galaxies, while several far-distant galaxies are visible in the background. Arp 273 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation of Andromeda. Quite likely, UGC 1810 will devour its galactic sidekicks over the next billion years and settle into a classic spiral form.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 October 14 - Andromeda before Photoshop
Explanation: What does the Andromeda galaxy really look like? The featured image shows how our Milky Way Galaxy's closest major galactic neighbor really appears in a long exposure through Earth's busy skies and with a digital camera that introduces normal imperfections. The picture is a stack of 223 images, each a 300 second exposure, taken from a garden observatory in Portugal over the past year. Obvious image deficiencies include bright parallel airplane trails, long and continuous satellite trails, short cosmic ray streaks, and bad pixels. These imperfections were actually not removed with Photoshop specifically, but rather greatly reduced with a series of computer software packages that included Astro Pixel Processor, DeepSkyStacker, and PixInsight. All of this work was done not to deceive you with a digital fantasy that has little to do with the real likeness of the Andromeda galaxy (M31), but to minimize Earthly artifacts that have nothing to do with the distant galaxy and so better recreate what M31 really does look like.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 September 9 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: How far can you see? The most distant object easily visible to the unaided eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy, over two million light-years away. Without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy appears as an unremarkable, faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. But a bright yellow nucleus, dark winding dust lanes, luminous blue spiral arms, and bright red emission nebulas are recorded in this stunning six-hour telescopic digital mosaic of our closest major galactic neighbor. While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers seriously debated this fundamental concept only 100 years ago. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying gas clouds in our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they "island universes" -- distant galaxies of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations favoring Andromeda being just like our Milky Way Galaxy -- a conclusion making the rest of the universe much more vast than many had ever imagined.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 August 22 - Nearby Spiral Galaxy NGC 4945
Explanation: Large spiral galaxy NGC 4945 is seen edge-on near the center of this cosmic galaxy portrait. In fact, it's almost the size of our Milky Way Galaxy. NGC 4945's own dusty disk, young blue star clusters, and pink star forming regions standout in the sharp, colorful telescopic image. About 13 million light-years distant toward the expansive southern constellation Centaurus, NGC 4945 is only about six times farther away than Andromeda, the nearest large spiral galaxy to the Milky Way. Though this galaxy's central region is largely hidden from view for optical telescopes, X-ray and infrared observations indicate significant high energy emission and star formation in the core of NGC 4945. Its obscured but active nucleus qualifies the gorgeous island universe as a Seyfert galaxy and home to a central supermassive black hole.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 February 23 - The Stars of the Triangulum Galaxy
Explanation: Like grains of sand on a cosmic beach, stars of the Triangulum Galaxy are resolved in this sharp mosaic from the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The inner region of the galaxy spanning over 17,000 light-years is covered at extreme resolution, the second largest image ever released by Hubble. At its center is the bright, densely packed galactic core surrounded by a loose array of dark dust lanes mixed with the stars in the galactic plane. Also known as M33, the face-on spiral galaxy lies 3 million light-years away in the small northern constellation Triangulum. Over 50,000 light-years in diameter, the Triangulum Galaxy is the third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. Of course, to fully appreciate the Triangulum's stars, star clusters, and bright nebulae captured in this Hubble mosaic, you'll need to use a zoom tool.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 December 17 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: What is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy? Andromeda. In fact, our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the featured image of M31 is a digital mosaic of 20 frames taken with a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including exactly how long it will be before it collides with our home galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 October 19 - Summer to Winter Milky Way
Explanation: Taken near local midnight, this autumn night's panorama follows the arch of the Milky Way across the northern horizon from the High Fens, Eifel Nature Park at the border of Belgium and Germany. Shift your gaze across the wetlands from west to east (left to right) and you can watch stars once more prominent in northern summer give way to those that will soon dominate northern winter nights. Setting, wanderer Mars is brightest at the far left, still shining against almost overwhelming city lights along the southwestern horizon. Bright stars Altair, Deneb, and Vega form the northern sky's summer triangle, straddling the Milky Way left of center. Part of the winter hexagon Capella and Aldebaran, along with the beautiful Pleiades star cluster shine across the northeastern sky. The line-of-sight along the hikers boardwalk leads almost directly toward the Big Dipper, an all season asterism from these northern latitudes. Follow the Big Dipper's pointer stars to Polaris and the north celestial pole nearly centered above it. Andromeda, the other large galaxy in the skyscape, is near the top of the frame.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 September 27 - M33: Triangulum Galaxy
Explanation: The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp image shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions along the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 7 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 August 12 - Meteor before Galaxy
Explanation: What's that green streak in front of the Andromeda galaxy? A meteor. While photographing the Andromeda galaxy in 2016, near the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, a sand-sized rock from deep space crossed right in front of our Milky Way Galaxy's far-distant companion. The small meteor took only a fraction of a second to pass through this 10-degree field. The meteor flared several times while braking violently upon entering Earth's atmosphere. The green color was created, at least in part, by the meteor's gas glowing as it vaporized. Although the exposure was timed to catch a Perseids meteor, the orientation of the imaged streak seems a better match to a meteor from the Southern Delta Aquariids, a meteor shower that peaked a few weeks earlier. Not coincidentally, the Perseid Meteor Shower peaks again tonight.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 May 23 - Spiral Galaxy NGC 4038 in Collision
Explanation: This galaxy is having a bad millennium. In fact, the past 100 million years haven't been so good, and probably the next billion or so will be quite tumultuous. Visible toward the lower right, NGC 4038 used to be a normal spiral galaxy, minding its own business, until NGC 4039, to its upper left, crashed into it. The evolving wreckage, known famously as the Antennae, is featured here. As gravity restructures each galaxy, clouds of gas slam into each other, bright blue knots of stars form, massive stars form and explode, and brown filaments of dust are strewn about. Eventually the two galaxies will converge into one larger spiral galaxy. Such collisions are not unusual, and even our own Milky Way Galaxy has undergone several in the past and is predicted to collide with our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy in a few billion years. The frames that compose this image were taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope by professional astronomers to better understand galaxy collisions. These frames -- and many other deep space images from Hubble -- have since been made public, allowing interested amateurs to download and process them into, for example, this visually stunning composite.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 January 8 - Clouds of Andromeda
Explanation: What are those red clouds surrounding the Andromeda galaxy? This galaxy, M31, is often imaged by planet Earth-based astronomers. As the nearest large spiral galaxy, it is a familiar sight with dark dust lanes, bright yellowish core, and spiral arms traced by clouds of bright blue stars. A mosaic of well-exposed broad and narrow-band image data, this colorful portrait of our neighboring island universe offers strikingly unfamiliar features though, faint reddish clouds of glowing ionized hydrogen gas in the same wide field of view. These ionized hydrogen clouds surely lie in the foreground of the scene, well within our Milky Way Galaxy. They are likely associated with the pervasive, dusty interstellar cirrus clouds scattered hundreds of light-years above our own galactic plane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 November 30 - M33: Triangulum Galaxy
Explanation: The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp composite image nicely shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions along the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 7 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 November 2 - NGC 891 vs Abell 347
Explanation: Distant galaxies lie beyond a foreground of spiky Milky Way stars in this telescopic field of view. Centered on yellowish star HD 14771, the scene spans about 1 degree on the sky toward the northern constellation Andromeda. At top right is large spiral galaxy NGC 891, 100 thousand light-years across and seen almost exactly edge-on. About 30 million light-years distant, NGC 891 looks a lot like our own Milky Way with a flattened, thin, galactic disk. Its disk and central bulge are cut along the middle by dark, obscuring dust clouds. Scattered toward the lower left are members of galaxy cluster Abell 347. Nearly 240 million light-years away, Abell 347 shows off its own large galaxies in the sharp image. They are similar to NGC 891 in physical size but located almost 8 times farther away, so Abell 347 galaxies have roughly one eighth the apparent size of NGC 891.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 August 10 - Night of the Perseids
Explanation: This weekend, meteors will rain down near the peak of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. Normally bright and colorful, the Perseid shower meteors are produced by dust swept up by planet Earth from the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle. They streak from a radiant in Perseus, above the horizon in clear predawn skies. Despite interfering light from August's waning gibbous moon, this year's Perseids will still be enjoyable, especially if you can find yourself in an open space, away from city lights, and in good company. Frames used in this composite view capture bright Perseid meteors from the 2016 meteor shower set against a starry background along the Milky Way, with even the faint Andromeda Galaxy just above center. In the foreground, astronomers of all ages have gathered on a hill above the Slovakian village of Vrchtepla.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 May 10 - UGC 1810: Wildly Interacting Galaxy from Hubble
Explanation: What's happening to this spiral galaxy? Although details remain uncertain, it surely has to do with an ongoing battle with its smaller galactic neighbor. The featured galaxy is labelled UGC 1810 by itself, but together with its collisional partner is known as Arp 273. The overall shape of the UGC 1810 -- in particular its blue outer ring -- is likely a result of wild and violent gravitational interactions. This ring's blue color is caused by massive stars that are blue hot and have formed only in the past few million years. The inner galaxy appears older, redder, and threaded with cool filamentary dust. A few bright stars appear well in the foreground, unrelated to UGC 1810, while several galaxies are visible well in the background. Arp 273 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation of Andromeda. Quite likely, UGC 1810 will devour its galactic sidekick over the next billion years and settle into a classic spiral form.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 March 3 - Sivan 2 to M31
Explanation: From within the boundaries of the constellation Cassiopeia (left) to Andromeda (right), this telescopic mosaic spans over 10 degrees in planet Earth's skies. The celestial scene is constructed of panels that are part of a high-resolution astronomical survey of the Milky Way in hydrogen-alpha light. Processing the monochromatic image data has brought out the region's faintest structures, relatively unexplored filaments of hydrogen gas near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Large but faint and also relatively unknown nebula Sivan 2 is at the upper left in the field. The nearby Andromeda Galaxy, M31, is at center right, while the faint, pervasive hydrogen nebulosities stretch towards M31 across the foreground in the wide field of view. The broad survey image demonstrates the intriguing faint hydrogen clouds recently imaged by astronomer Rogelio Bernal Andreo really are within the Milky Way, along the line-of-sight to the Andromeda Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 January 12 - Edge On NGC 891
Explanation: Large spiral galaxy NGC 891 spans about 100 thousand light-years and is seen almost exactly edge-on from our perspective. In fact, about 30 million light-years distant in the constellation Andromeda, NGC 891 looks a lot like our Milky Way. At first glance, it has a flat, thin, galactic disk of stars and a central bulge cut along the middle by regions of dark obscuring dust. But remarkably apparent in NGC 891's edge-on presentation are filaments of dust that extend hundreds of light-years above and below the center line. The dust has likely been blown out of the disk by supernova explosions or intense star formation activity. Fainter galaxies can also be seen near the edge-on disk in this deep portrait of NGC 891. (Editor's Note: The NGC 891 image used in today's APOD posting has been replaced and the credit corrected to indicate the author of the original work.)

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 January 5 - Peculiar Galaxies of Arp 273
Explanation: The spiky stars in the foreground of this sharp cosmic portrait are well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. The two eye-catching galaxies lie far beyond the Milky Way, at a distance of over 300 million light-years. Their distorted appearance is due to gravitational tides as the pair engage in close encounters. Cataloged as Arp 273 (also as UGC 1810), the galaxies do look peculiar, but interacting galaxies are now understood to be common in the universe. In fact, the nearby large spiral Andromeda Galaxy is known to be some 2 million light-years away and approaching the Milky Way. Arp 273 may offer an analog of their far future encounter. Repeated galaxy encounters on a cosmic timescale can ultimately result in a merger into a single galaxy of stars. From our perspective, the bright cores of the Arp 273 galaxies are separated by only a little over 100,000 light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 January 4 - Clouds of Andromeda
Explanation: The beautiful Andromeda Galaxy is often imaged by planet Earth-based astronomers. Also known as M31, the nearest large spiral galaxy is a familiar sight with dark dust lanes, bright yellowish core, and spiral arms traced by blue starlight. A mosaic of well-exposed broad and narrow-band image data, this colorful, premier portrait of our neighboring island universe offers strikingly unfamiliar features though, faint reddish clouds of glowing ionized hydrogen gas in the same wide field of view. Still, the ionized hydrogen clouds likely lie in the foreground of the scene, well within our Milky Way Galaxy. They could be associated with the pervasive, dusty interstellar cirrus clouds scattered hundreds of light-years above our own galactic plane. If they were located at the 2.5 million light-year distance of the Andromeda Galaxy they would be enormous, since the Andromeda Galaxy itself is 200,000 or so light-years across.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 December 27 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: What is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy? Andromeda. In fact, our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the featured image of M31 is a digital mosaic of several frames taken with a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including exactly how many billions of years it will before it collides with our home galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 November 12 - NGC 891 vs Abell 347
Explanation: Galaxies abound in this well-chosen field of view that spans about 1 degree on the sky toward the northern constellation Andromeda. At top right is large spiral galaxy NGC 891, 100 thousand light-years across and seen almost exactly edge-on. About 30 million light-years distant, NGC 891 looks a lot like our own Milky Way with a flattened, thin, galactic disk. Its disk and central bulge are cut along the middle by dark, obscuring dust clouds. Scattered toward the lower left, and beyond a foreground of Milky Way stars, are members of galaxy cluster Abell 347. Nearly 240 million light-years away, Abell 347 shows off its own large galaxies in the sharp telescopic image. They are similar to NGC 891 in physical size but located almost 8 times farther away, so Abell 347 galaxies have roughly one eighth the apparent size of NGC 891.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 September 17 - M33: Triangulum Galaxy
Explanation: The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp composite image nicely shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions along the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 1 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 August 26 - The Milky Way Sets
Explanation: Under dark skies the setting of the Milky Way can be a dramatic sight. Stretching nearly parallel to the horizon, this rich, edge-on vista of our galaxy above the dusty Namibian desert stretches from bright, southern Centaurus (left) to Cepheus in the north (right). From early August, the digitally stitched, panoramic night skyscape captures the Milky Way's congeries of stars and rivers of cosmic dust, along with colors of nebulae not readily seen with the eye. Mars, Saturn, and Antares, visible even in more luminous night skies, form the the bright celestial triangle just touching the trees below the galaxy's central bulge. Of course, our own galaxy is not the only galaxy in the scene. Two other major members of our local group, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Triangulum Galaxy, lie near the right edge of the frame, beyond the arc of the setting Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 August 17 - Meteor before Galaxy
Explanation: What's that green streak in front of the Andromeda galaxy? A meteor. While photographing the Andromeda galaxy last Friday, near the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, a sand-sized rock from deep space crossed right in front of our Milky Way Galaxy's far-distant companion. The small meteor took only a fraction of a second to pass through this 10-degree field. The meteor flared several times while braking violently upon entering Earth's atmosphere. The green color was created, at least in part, by the meteor's gas glowing as it vaporized. Although the exposure was timed to catch a Perseids meteor, the orientation of the imaged streak seems a better match to a meteor from the Southern Delta Aquariids, a meteor shower that peaked a few weeks earlier.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 May 25 - NGC 5078 and Friends
Explanation: This sharp telescopic field of view holds two bright galaxies. Barred spiral NGC 5101 (top right) and nearly edge-on system NGC 5078 are separated on the sky by about 0.5 degrees or about the apparent width of a full moon. Found within the boundaries of the serpentine constellation Hydra, both are estimated to be around 90 million light-years away and similar in size to our own large Milky Way galaxy. In fact, if they both lie at the same distance their projected separation would be only 800,000 light-years or so. That's easily less than half the distance between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. NGC 5078 is interacting with a smaller companion galaxy, cataloged as IC 879, seen just left of the larger galaxy's bright core. Even more distant background galaxies are scattered around the colorful field. Some are even visible right through the face-on disk of NGC 5101. But the prominent spiky stars are in the foreground, well within our own Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 April 19 - Andromeda on the Rocks
Explanation: How far can you see? The Andromeda Galaxy 2.5 million light years away is the most distant object easily seen by the unaided eye. Other apparent denizens of the night sky, stars, clusters, and nebulae, typically range from a few hundred to a few thousand light-years away and lie well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Also known as M31, the Andromeda Galaxy is the faint smudge near top center of this Earth and skyscape, taken from eastern Italy, near Monte Conero on the Adriatic sea coast. From a few centimeters to a few million light-years, the picture demonstrates a stunning range of vision. Though galaxy and seaside rocks could be seen with the eye on that clear summer night, no camera captured this view in a single exposure. Because the stars trailed above the horizon while the picture was made, separate exposures tracking the stars were combined with one of rocks and cliffs made with the camera steadied to create the tantalizing scene.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 March 22 - Rainbow Airglow over the Azores
Explanation: Why would the sky glow like a giant repeating rainbow? Airglow. Now air glows all of the time, but it is usually hard to see. A disturbance however -- like an approaching storm -- may cause noticeable rippling in the Earth's atmosphere. These gravity waves are oscillations in air analogous to those created when a rock is thrown in calm water. The long-duration exposure nearly along the vertical walls of airglow likely made the undulating structure particularly visible. OK, but where do the colors originate? The deep red glow likely originates from OH molecules about 87-kilometers high, excited by ultraviolet light from the Sun. The orange and green airglow is likely caused by sodium and oxygen atoms slightly higher up. The featured image was captured during a climb up Mount Pico in the Azores of Portugal. Ground lights originate from the island of Faial in the Atlantic Ocean. A spectacular sky is visible through this banded airglow, with the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy running up the image center, and M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, visible near the top left.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 January 7 - High Energy Andromeda
Explanation: A mere 2.5 million light-years away, the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, really is just next door as large galaxies go. In this (inset) scan, image data from NASA's Nuclear Spectrosopic Telescope Array has yielded the best high-energy X-ray view yet of our large neighboring spiral, revealing some 40 extreme sources of X-rays, X-ray binary star systems that contain a black hole or neutron star orbiting a more normal stellar companion. In fact, larger Andromeda and our own Milky Way are the most massive members of the local galaxy group. Andromeda is close enough that NuSTAR can examine its population of X-ray binaries in detail, comparing them to our own. The background image of Andromeda was taken by NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer in energetic ultraviolet light.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 January 3 - A Starry Night of Iceland
Explanation: On some nights, the sky is the best show in town. On this night, the sky was not only the best show in town, but a composite image of the sky won an international competition for landscape astrophotography. The featured winning image was taken in 2011 over Jkulsrln, the largest glacial lake in Iceland. The photographer combined six exposures to capture not only two green auroral rings, but their reflections off the serene lake. Visible in the distant background sky is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy. A powerful coronal mass ejection from the Sun caused auroras to be seen as far south as Wisconsin, USA. Solar activity over the past week has resulted in auroras just over the past few days.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 September 26 - M31 versus M33
Explanation: Separated by about 14 degrees (28 Full Moons) in planet Earth's sky, spiral galaxies M31 at left, and M33 are both large members of the Local Group, along with our own Milky Way galaxy. This narrow- and wide-angle, multi-camera composite finds details of spiral structure in both, while the massive neighboring galaxies seem to be balanced in starry fields either side of bright Mirach, beta star in the constellation Andromeda. Mirach is just 200 light-years from the Sun. But M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is really 2.5 million light-years distant and M33, the Triangulum Galaxy, is also about 3 million light years away. Although they look far apart, M31 and M33 are engaged in a gravitational struggle. In fact, radio astronomers have found indications of a bridge of neutral hydrogen gas that could connect the two, evidence of a closer encounter in the past. Based on measurements, gravitational simulations currently predict that the Milky Way, M31, and M33 will all undergo mutual close encounters and potentially mergers, billions of years in the future.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 August 30 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: What is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy? Andromeda. In fact, our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the above image of M31 is a digital mosaic of 20 frames taken with a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including exactly how long it will before it collides with our home galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 August 17 - Andromeda Rising over the Alps
Explanation: Have you ever seen the Andromeda galaxy? Although M31 appears as a faint and fuzzy blob to the unaided eye, the light you see will be over two million years old, making it likely the oldest light you ever will see directly. Now rising near a few hours after sunset from mid-latitude northern locations, Andromeda is rising earlier each night and will be visible to northerners all night long starting in September. The featured image captured Andromeda rising above the Italian Alps last month. As cool as it may be to see this neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way with your own eyes, long duration camera exposures can pick up many faint and breathtaking details. Recent data indicates that our Milky Way Galaxy will collide and coalesce with the slightly larger Andromeda galaxy in a few billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 July 24 - Ultraviolet Rings of M31
Explanation: A mere 2.5 million light-years away the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, really is just next door as large galaxies go. So close and spanning some 260,000 light-years, it took 11 different image fields from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) satellite's telescope to produce this gorgeous portrait of the spiral galaxy in ultraviolet light. While its spiral arms stand out in visible light images of Andromeda, the arms look more like rings in the GALEX ultraviolet view, a view dominated by the energetic light from hot, young, massive stars. As sites of intense star formation, the rings have been interpreted as evidence Andromeda collided with its smaller neighboring elliptical galaxy M32 more than 200 million years ago. The large Andromeda galaxy and our own Milky Way are the most massive members of the local galaxy group.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 April 4 - Voorwerpjes in Space
Explanation: Mysterious Hanny's Voorwerp, Dutch for "Hanny's Object", is really enormous, about the size of the Milky Way Galaxy and glowing strongly in the greenish light produced by ionized oxygen atoms. It is thought to be a tidal tail of material left by an ancient galaxy merger, illuminated and ionized by the outburst of a quasar inhabiting the center of distant spiral galaxy IC 2497. Its exciting 2007 discovery by Dutch schoolteacher Hanny van Arkel while participating online in the Galaxy Zoo project has since inspired a search and discovery of eight more eerie green cosmic features. Imaged in these panels by the Hubble Space Telescope, all eight appear near galaxies with energetic cores. Far outside their associated galaxies, these objects are also likely echoes of quasar activity, illuminated only as light from a core quasar outburst reaches them and ultimately fading tens of thousands of years after the quasar outburst itself has faded away. Of course a galaxy merger like the impending merger of our own Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, could also trigger the birth of a quasar that would illuminate our distant future version of Hanny's Voorwerp.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 February 23 - The Milky Way Over the Arizona Toadstools
Explanation: Which is older -- the rocks you see on the ground or the light you see from the sky? Usually its the rocks that are older, with their origin sediments deposited well before light left any of the stars or nebulas you see in the sky. However, if you can see, through a telescope, a distant galaxy far across the universe -- further than Andromeda or spiral galaxy NGC 7331 (inset) -- then you are seeing light even more ancient. Featured here, the central disk of our Milky Way Galaxy arches over Toadstool hoodoos rock formations in northern Arizona, USA. The unusual Toadstool rock caps are relatively hard sandstone that wind has eroded more slowly than the softer sandstone underneath. The green bands are airglow, light emitted by the stimulated air in Earth's atmosphere. On the lower right is a time-lapse camera set up to capture the sky rotating behind the picturesque foreground scene.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 January 6 - 100 Million Stars in the Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: What stars compose the Andromeda galaxy? To better understand, a group of researchers studied the nearby spiral by composing the largest image ever taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. The result, called the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT), involved thousands of observations, hundreds of fields, spanned about a third of the galaxy, and resolved over 100 million stars. In the featured composite image, the central part of the galaxy is seen on the far left, while a blue spiral arm is prominent on the right. The brightest stars, scattered over the frame, are actually Milky Way foreground stars. The PHAT data is being analyzed to better understand where and how stars have formed in M31 in contrast to our Milky Way Galaxy, and to identify and characterize Andromeda's stellar clusters and obscuring dust.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 December 13 - The Infrared Visible Andromeda
Explanation: This remarkable synthetic color composite image was assembled from archives of visible light and infrared astronomy image data. The field of view spans the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), a massive spiral a mere 2.5 million light-years away. In fact, with over twice the diameter of our own Milky Way, Andromeda is the largest nearby galaxy. Andromeda's population of bright young blue stars lie along its sweeping spiral arms, with the telltale reddish glow of star forming regions traced in space- and ground-based visible light data. But infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, also blended directly into the detailed composite's red and green color channels, highlight the lumpy dust lanes warmed by the young stars as they wind ever closer to the galaxy's core. Otherwise invisible at optical wavelengths, the warm dust takes on orange hues. Two smaller companion galaxies, M110 (below) and M32 (above) are also included in the frame.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 December 5 - Milky Way over Moon Valley
Explanation: Our Milky Way Galaxy arcs over a desolate landscape in this fantastic panoramic night skyview. The otherworldly scene looks across the arid, eroded terrain of the Valle de la Luna in the Chilean Atacama desert. Just along the horizon are lights from San Pedro, Chile, as well as the small villages of Socaire and Toconao, and a tortuous road from the city of Calama to San Pedro. Taken on October 18th, the five panel mosaic also features the four galaxies easily visible from our fair planet's dark sky regions. At the far left, satellite galaxies known as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are framed by their terrestrial namesakes. Much fainter and at the right, beyond the Milky Way's central bulge, is the Andromeda Galaxy. The most distant in view, Andromeda lies some 2.5 million light-years away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 September 25 - NGC 206 and the Star Clouds of Andromeda
Explanation: The large stellar association cataloged as NGC 206 is nestled within the dusty arms of the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. Also known as M31, the spiral galaxy is a mere 2.5 million light-years away. NGC 206 is near top center in this gorgeous close-up of the southwestern extent of Andromeda's disk, a remarkable composite of data from space and ground-based observatories. The bright, blue stars of NGC 206 indicate its youth. In fact, its youngest massive stars are less than 10 million years old. Much larger than the open or galactic clusters of young stars in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy, NGC 206 spans about 4,000 light-years. That's comparable in size to the giant stellar nurseries NGC 604 in nearby spiral M33 and the Tarantula Nebula, in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Star forming sites within Andromeda are revealed by the telltale reddish emission from clouds of ionized hydrogen gas.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 July 30 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the above image of M31 was taken with a standard camera through a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including how it acquired its unusual double-peaked center.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 February 8 - NGC 5101 and Friends
Explanation: This sharp telescopic field of view holds two bright galaxies. Barred spiral NGC 5101 (top right) and nearly edge-on system NGC 5078 are separated on the sky by about 0.5 degrees or about the apparent width of a full moon. Found within the boundaries of the serpentine constellation Hydra, both are estimated to be around 90 million light-years away and similar in size to our own large Milky Way galaxy. In fact, if they both lie at the same distance their projected separation would be only 800,000 light-years or so. That's easily less than half the distance between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. NGC 5078 is interacting with a smaller companion galaxy, cataloged as IC 879, seen just below and left of the larger galaxy's bright core. Even more distant background galaxies are scattered around the colorful field. Some are even visible right through the face-on disk of NGC 5101. But the prominent spiky stars are in the foreground, well within our own Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 January 14 - The Gegenschein Over Chile
Explanation: Is the night sky darkest in the direction opposite the Sun? No. In fact, a rarely discernable faint glow known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow") can be seen 180 degrees around from the Sun in an extremely dark sky. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Pictured above from last year is one of the more spectacular pictures of the gegenschein yet taken. Here a deep exposure of an extremely dark sky over Las Campanas Observatory in Chile shows the gegenschein so clearly that even a surrounding glow is visible. Notable background objects include the Andromeda galaxy, the Pleiades star cluster, the California Nebula, the belt of Orion just below the Orion Nebula and inside Barnard's Loop, and bright stars Rigel and Betelgeuse. The gegenschein is distinguished from zodiacal light near the Sun by the high angle of reflection. During the day, a phenomenon similar to the gegenschein called the glory can be seen in reflecting air or clouds opposite the Sun from an airplane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 October 13 - Hale Bopp: The Great Comet of 1997
Explanation: Sixteen years ago, Comet Hale-Bopp rounded the Sun and offered a dazzling spectacle in planet Earth's night. This stunning view, recorded shortly after the comet's 1997 perihelion passage, features the memorable tails of Hale-Bopp -- a whitish dust tail and blue ion tail. Here, the ion tail extends well over ten degrees across the northern sky, fading near the double star clusters in Perseus, while the head of the comet lies near Almach, a bright star in the constellation Andromeda. Do you remember Hale-Bopp? The photographer's sons do, pictured in the foreground at ages 12 and 15. In all, Hale-Bopp was reported as visible to the naked eye from roughly late May 1996 through September 1997. Currently, sky enthusiasts await Comet ISON's continued brightening in the coming weeks, unsure how interesting its first journey to the inner Solar System will be.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 October 11 - NGC 891 Edge On
Explanation: This sharp cosmic portrait features NGC 891. The spiral galaxy spans about 100 thousand light-years and is seen almost exactly edge-on from our perspective. In fact, about 30 million light-years distant in the constellation Andromeda, NGC 891 looks a lot like our Milky Way. At first glance, it has a flat, thin, galactic disk and a central bulge cut along the middle by regions of dark obscuring dust. The combined image data also reveal the galaxy's young blue star clusters and telltale pinkish star forming regions. And remarkably apparent in NGC 891's edge-on presentation are filaments of dust that extend hundreds of light-years above and below the center line. The dust has likely been blown out of the disk by supernova explosions or intense star formation activity. Faint neighboring galaxies can also be seen near this galaxy's disk.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 September 27 - Andromeda on the Rocks
Explanation: How far can you see? The Andromeda Galaxy 2.5 million light years away is the most distant object easily seen by the unaided eye. Other apparent denizens of the night sky, stars, clusters, and nebulae, typically range from a few hundred to a few thousand light-years away and lie well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Also known as M31, the Andromeda Galaxy is the faint smudge near top center of this Earth and skyscape, taken from eastern Italy, near Monte Conero on the Adriatic sea coast. From a few centimeters to a few million light-years, the picture demonstrates a stunning range of vision. Though galaxy and seaside rocks could be seen with the eye on that clear summer night, no camera captured this view in a single exposure. Because the stars trailed above the horizon while the picture was made, separate exposures tracking the stars were combined with one of rocks and cliffs made with the camera steadied to create the tantalizing scene.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 September 26 - M31 versus M33
Explanation: Separated by about 14 degrees (28 Full Moons) in planet Earth's sky, spiral galaxies M31, left, and M33 are both large members of the Local Group, along with our own Milky Way galaxy. This wide-angle, telescopic mosaic captures colorful details of spiral structure in both, while the massive neighboring galaxies seem to be balanced either side of bright Mirach, beta star in the constellation Andromeda. But M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is really 2.5 million light-years distant and M33, the Triangulum Galaxy, is also about 3 million light years away. Mirach, just 200 light-years from the Sun, lies well within the Milky Way, along with the dim clouds of dust drifting through the frame only a few hundred light-years above the galactic plane. Although they look far apart, M31 and M33 are locked in a mutual gravitational embrace. Radio astronomers have found indications of a bridge of neutral hydrogen gas that could connect the two, evidence of a closer encounter in the past. Based on measurements, gravitational simulations currently predict that the Milky Way, M31, and M33 will all undergo mutual close encounters and potentially mergers, billions of years in the future.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 September 7 - Night in the Andes Ice Forest
Explanation: This forest of snow and ice penitentes reflects moonlight shining across the Chajnantor plateau. The region lies in the Chilean Andes at an altitude of 5,000 meters, not far from one of planet Earth's major astronomical observatories, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Up to several meters high, the flattened, sharp-edged shapes, and orientation of the penitentes tend to minimize their shadows at local noon. In the dry, cold, thin atmosphere, sublimation driven by sunlight is important for their formation. A direct transition from a solid to a gaseous state, sublimation shapes other solar system terrains too, like icy surfaces of comets and the polar caps of Mars. Above the dreamlike landscape stretches the southern night sky. Their own forms rooted in myth, look for the constellations Pegasus, Andromeda, and Perseus near the panorama's left edge. Bright and colorful stars of Orion the Hunter are near center, with the Large Magellanic Cloud and the South Celestial Pole on the far right.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 August 27 - A Flight through the Hubble Ultra Deep Field
Explanation: What would it look like to fly through the distant universe? To find out, a team of astronomers estimated the relative distances to over 5,000 galaxies in one of the most distant fields of galaxies ever imaged: the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). Because it takes light a long time to cross the universe, most galaxies visible in the above video are seen when the universe was only a fraction of its current age, were still forming, and have unusual shapes when compared to modern galaxies. No mature looking spiral galaxies such as our Milky Way or the Andromeda galaxy yet exist. Toward the end of the video the virtual observer flies past the farthest galaxies in the HUDF field, recorded to have a redshift past 8. This early class of low luminosity galaxies likely contained energetic stars emitting light that transformed much of the remaining normal matter in the universe from a cold gas to a hot ionized plasma.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 August 1 - Moon Over Andromeda
Explanation: The Great Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda (aka M31), a mere 2.5 million light-years distant, is the closest large spiral to our own Milky Way. Andromeda is visible to the unaided eye as a small, faint, fuzzy patch, but because its surface brightness is so low, casual skygazers can't appreciate the galaxy's impressive extent in planet Earth's sky. This entertaining composite image compares the angular size of the nearby galaxy to a brighter, more familiar celestial sight. In it, a deep exposure of Andromeda, tracing beautiful blue star clusters in spiral arms far beyond the bright yellow core, is combined with a typical view of a nearly full Moon. Shown at the same angular scale, the Moon covers about 1/2 degree on the sky, while the galaxy is clearly several times that size. The deep Andromeda exposure also includes two bright satellite galaxies, M32 and M110 (bottom).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 June 26 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the above image of M31 was taken with a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including how it acquired its unusual double-peaked center.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 May 14 - Galaxy Collisions: Simulation vs Observations
Explanation: What happens when two galaxies collide? Although it may take over a billion years, such titanic clashes are quite common. Since galaxies are mostly empty space, no internal stars are likely to themselves collide. Rather the gravitation of each galaxy will distort or destroy the other galaxy, and the galaxies may eventually merge to form a single larger galaxy. Expansive gas and dust clouds collide and trigger waves of star formation that complete even during the interaction process. Pictured above is a computer simulation of two large spiral galaxies colliding, interspersed with real still images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Our own Milky Way Galaxy has absorbed several smaller galaxies during its existence and is even projected to merge with the larger neighboring Andromeda galaxy in a few billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 April 3 - Comet PANSTARRS and the Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Currently, comet PANSTARRS is passing nearly in front of the galaxy Andromeda. Coincidentally, both comet and galaxy appear now to be just about the same angular size. In physical size, even though Comet PANSTARRS is currently the largest object in the Solar System with a tail spanning about 15 times the diameter of the Sun, it is still about 70 billion times smaller than the Andromeda galaxy (M31). The above image was captured on March 30, near Syktyvkar, Russia. As C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) on the lower left recedes from the Sun and dims, it is returning to the northerly direction whence it came. When the comet will return is currently unknown, although humans may have merged with computers by then.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 February 2 - Herschel's Andromeda
Explanation: This infrared view from the Herschel Space Observatory explores the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest large spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way. Only 2.5 million light-years distant, the famous island universe is also known to astronomers as M31. Andromeda spans over 200,000 light-years making it more than twice the size of the Milky Way. Shown in false color, the image data reveal the cool dust lanes and clouds that still shine in the infrared but are otherwise dark and opaque at visual wavelengths. Red hues near the galaxy's outskirts represent the glow of dust heated by starlight to a few tens of degrees above absolute zero. Blue colors correspond to hotter dust warmed by stars in the more crowded central core. Also a tracer of molecular gas, the dust highlights Andromeda's prodigious reservoir of raw material for future star formation.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 January 23 - Nearby Spiral Galaxy NGC 4945
Explanation: Large spiral galaxy NGC 4945 is seen edge-on near the center of this cosmic galaxy portrait. In fact, NGC 4945 is almost the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy. Its own dusty disk, young blue star clusters, and pink star forming regions standout in the sharp, colorful telescopic image. About 13 million light-years distant toward the expansive southern constellation Centaurus, NGC 4945 is only about six times farther away than Andromeda, the nearest large spiral galaxy to the Milky Way. Though the galaxy's central region is largely hidden from view for optical telescopes, X-ray and infrared observations indicate significant high energy emission and star formation in the core of NGC 4945. Its obscured but active nucleus qualifies the gorgeous island universe as a Seyfert galaxy and likely home to a central supermassive black hole.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 January 11 - The Fornax Cluster of Galaxies
Explanation: How do clusters of galaxies form and evolve? To help find out, astronomers continue to study the second closest cluster of galaxies to Earth: the Fornax cluster, named for the southern constellation toward which most of its galaxies can be found. Although almost 20 times more distant than our neighboring Andromeda galaxy, Fornax is only about 10 percent further that the better known and more populated Virgo cluster of galaxies. Fornax has a well-defined central region that contains many galaxies, but is still evolving. It has other galaxy groupings that appear distinct and have yet to merge. Seen here, almost every yellowish splotch on the image is an elliptical galaxy in the Fornax cluster. The picturesque barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 visible on the lower right is also a prominent Fornax cluster member.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 December 20 - M33: Triangulum Galaxy
Explanation: The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp composite image, a 25 panel mosaic, nicely shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions that trace the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 1 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 December 2 - The Gegenschein Over Chile
Explanation: Is the night sky darkest in the direction opposite the Sun? No. In fact, a rarely discernable faint glow known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow") can be seen 180 degrees around from the Sun in an extremely dark sky. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Pictured above from 2008 October is one of the more spectacular pictures of the gegenschein yet taken. Here a deep exposure of an extremely dark sky over Paranal Observatory in Chile shows the gegenschein so clearly that even a surrounding glow is visible. In the foreground are several of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescopes, while notable background objects include the Andromeda galaxy toward the lower left and the Pleiades star cluster just above the horizon. The gegenschein is distinguished from zodiacal light near the Sun by the high angle of reflection. During the day, a phenomenon similar to the gegenschein called the glory can be seen in reflecting air or clouds opposite the Sun from an airplane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 October 24 - NGC 206 and the Star Clouds of Andromeda
Explanation: The large stellar association cataloged as NGC 206 is nestled within the dusty arms of neighboring spiral galaxy Andromeda (M31), 2.5 million light-years distant. Seen near the center of this gorgeous close-up of the southwestern extent of Andromeda's disk, the bright, blue stars of NGC 206 indicate its youth. Its youngest massive stars are less than 10 million years old. Much larger than the clusters of young stars in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy known as open or galactic clusters, NGC 206 spans about 4,000 light-years. That's comparable in size to the giant stellar nurseries NGC 604 in nearby spiral M33 and the Tarantula Nebula, in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 August 12 - Spiral Galaxy NGC 4038 in Collision
Explanation: This galaxy is having a bad millennium. In fact, the past 100 million years haven't been so good, and probably the next billion or so will be quite tumultuous. Visible on the upper left, NGC 4038 used to be a normal spiral galaxy, minding its own business, until NGC 4039, toward its right, crashed into it. The evolving wreckage, known famously as the Antennae, is pictured above. As gravity restructures each galaxy, clouds of gas slam into each other, bright blue knots of stars form, massive stars form and explode, and brown filaments of dust are strewn about. Eventually the two galaxies will converge into one larger spiral galaxy. Such collisions are not unusual, and even our own Milky Way Galaxy has undergone several in the past and is predicted to collide with our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy in a few billion years. The frames that compose this image were taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope by professional astronomers to better understand galaxy collisions. These frames -- and many other deep space images from Hubble -- have since been made public, allowing an interested amateur to download and process them into this visually stunning composite.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 July 17 - Simulation: A Disk Galaxy Forms
Explanation: How do galaxies like our Milky Way form? Since our universe moves too slowly to watch, faster-moving computer simulations are created to help find out. Green depicts (mostly) hydrogen gas in the above movie, while time is shown in billions of years since the Big Bang on the lower right. Pervasive dark matter is present but not shown. As the simulation begins, ambient gas falls into and accumulates in regions of relatively high gravity. Soon numerous proto-galaxies form, spin, and begin to merge. After about four billion years, a well-defined center materializes that dominates a region about 100,000 light-years across and starts looking like a modern disk galaxy. After a few billion more years, however, this early galaxy collides with another, all while streams of gas from other mergers rain down on this strange and fascinating cosmic dance. As the simulation reaches half the current age of the universe, a single larger disk develops. Even so, gas blobs -- some representing small satellite galaxies -- fall into and become absorbed by the rotating galaxy as the present epoch is reached and the movie ends. For our Milky Way Galaxy, however, big mergers may not be over -- recent evidence indicates that our large spiral disk Galaxy will collide and coalesce with the slightly larger Andromeda spiral disk galaxy in the next few billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 June 4 - Milky Way Galaxy Doomed: Collision with Andromeda Pending
Explanation: Will our Milky Way Galaxy collide one day with its larger neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy? Most likely, yes. Careful plotting of slight displacements of M31's stars relative to background galaxies on recent Hubble Space Telescope images indicate that the center of M31 could be on a direct collision course with the center of our home galaxy. Still, the errors in sideways velocity appear sufficiently large to admit a good chance that the central parts of the two galaxies will miss, slightly, but will become close enough for their outer halos to become gravitationally entangled. Once that happens, the two galaxies will become bound, dance around, and eventually merge to become one large elliptical galaxy -- over the next few billion years. Pictured above is an artist's illustration of the sky of a world in the distant future when the central parts of each galaxy begin to destroy each other. The exact future of our Milky Way and the entire surrounding Local Group of Galaxies is likely to remain an active topic of research for years to come.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 May 26 - At the Edge of NGC 891
Explanation: This sharp cosmic portrait features NGC 891. The spiral galaxy spans about 100 thousand light-years and is seen almost exactly edge-on from our perspective. In fact, about 30 million light-years distant in the constellation Andromeda, NGC 891 looks a lot like our Milky Way. At first glance, it has a flat, thin, galactic disk and a central bulge cut along the middle by regions of dark obscuring dust. The combined image data also reveal the galaxy's young blue star clusters and telltale pinkish star forming regions. And remarkably apparent in NGC 891's edge-on presentation are filaments of dust that extend hundreds of light-years above and below the center line. The dust has likely been blown out of the disk by supernova explosions or intense star formation activity. Faint neighboring galaxies can also be seen near this galaxy's disk.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 May 18 - GALEX: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: A mere 2.5 million light-years away, the Andromeda Galaxy really is just next door as large galaxies go. So close, and spanning some 260,000 light-years, it took 11 different image fields from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) satellite's telescope to produce this gorgeous portrait of the spiral galaxy in ultraviolet light. While its spiral arms stand out in visible light images of Andromeda (also known as M31), the arms look more like rings in the GALEX ultraviolet view, dominated by hot, young, massive stars. As sites of intense star formation, the rings have been interpreted as evidence Andromeda collided with its smaller neighboring elliptical galaxy M32 more than 200 million years ago. The large Andromeda galaxy and our own Milky Way are the dominant members of the local galaxy group.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 September 22 - Arp 272
Explanation: Linking spiral arms, two large colliding galaxies are featured in this remarkable cosmic portrait constructed using image data from the Hubble Legacy Archive. Recorded in astronomer Halton Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies as Arp 272, the pair is otherwise known as NGC 6050 near center, and IC 1179 at upper right. A third galaxy, likely also a member of the interacting system, can be spotted above and left of larger spiral NGC 6050. They lie some 450 million light-years away in the Hercules Galaxy Cluster. At that estimated distance, the picture spans over 150 thousand light-years. Although this scenario does look peculiar, galaxy collisions and their eventual mergers are now understood to be common, with Arp 272 representing a stage in this inevitable process. In fact, the nearby large spiral Andromeda Galaxy is known to be approaching our own galaxy and Arp 272 may offer a glimpse of the far future collision between Andromeda and the Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 July 1 - VAR!
Explanation: In the 1920s, examining photographic plates from the Mt. Wilson Observatory's 100 inch telescope, Edwin Hubble determined the distance to the Andromeda Nebula, decisively demonstrating the existence of other galaxies far beyond the Milky Way. His notations are evident on the historic plate image inset at the lower right, shown in context with ground based and Hubble Space Telescope images of the region made nearly 90 years later. By comparing different plates, Hubble searched for novae, stars which underwent a sudden increase in brightness. He found several on this plate, indicating their position with lines and an "N". Later, discovering that the one near the upper right corner was actually a type of variable star known as a cepheid, he crossed out the "N" and wrote "VAR!". Thanks to the work of Harvard astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, cepheids, regularly varying pulsating stars, could be used as standard candle distance indicators. Identifying such a star allowed Hubble to show that Andromeda was not a small cluster of stars and gas within our own galaxy, but a large galaxy in its own right at a substantial distance from the Milky Way. Hubble's discovery is responsible for establishing our modern concept of a Universe filled with galaxies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 May 17 - A Starry Night of Iceland
Explanation: On some nights, the sky is the best show in town. On this night, the sky was not only the best show in town, but a composite image of the sky won an international competition for landscape astrophotography. The above winning image was taken two months ago over Jkulsrln, the largest glacial lake in Iceland. The photographer combined six exposures to capture not only two green auroral rings, but their reflections off the serene lake. Visible in the distant background sky is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy, the Pleiades open clusters of stars, and the Andromeda galaxy. A powerful coronal mass ejection from the Sun caused auroras to be seen as far south as Wisconsin, USA. As the Sun progresses toward solar maximum in the next few years, many more spectacular images of aurora are expected.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 April 21 - Peculiar Galaxies of Arp 273
Explanation: The spiky stars in the foreground of this sharp cosmic portrait are well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. The two eye-catching galaxies lie far beyond the Milky Way, at a distance of over 300 million light-years. Their distorted appearance is due to gravitational tides as the pair engage in close encounters. Cataloged as Arp 273 (also as UGC 1810), the galaxies do look peculiar, but interacting galaxies are now understood to be common in the universe. In fact, the nearby large spiral Andromeda Galaxy is known to be some 2 million light-years away and approaching the Milky Way. Arp 273 may offer an analog of their far future encounter. Repeated galaxy encounters on a cosmic timescale can ultimately result in a merger into a single galaxy of stars. From our perspective, the bright cores of the Arp 273 galaxies are separated by only a little over 100,000 light-years. The release of this stunning vista celebrates the 21st anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 February 21 - Milky Way Over Switzerland
Explanation: What's visible in the night sky during this time of year? To help illustrate the answer, a beautiful land, cloud, and skyscape was captured earlier this month over Neuchtel, Switzerland. Visible in the foreground were the snow covered cliffs of the amphitheater shaped Creux du Van, as well as distant trees, and town-lit clouds. Visible in the night sky (at midnight) were galaxies including the long arch of the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy (M31), and the Triangulum galaxy (M33). Star clusters visible included NGC 752, M34, M35, M41, the double cluster, and the Beehive (M44). Nebulas visible included the Orion Nebula (M42), NGC 7822, IC 1396, the Rosette Nebula, the Flaming Star Nebula, the California Nebula, the Heart and Soul Nebulas, and the Pacman Nebula. Rolling your cursor over the above image will bring up labels for all of these. But the above wide angle sky image captured even more sky wonders. What other nebulas can you find in the above image?

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 January 20 - The Once and Future Stars of Andromeda
Explanation: The big, beautiful Andromeda Galaxy, aka M31, is a spiral galaxy a mere 2.5 million light-years away. Two space-based observatories have combined to produce this intriguing composite image of Andromeda, at wavelengths outside the visible spectrum. The remarkable view follows the locations of this galaxy's once and future stars. In reddish hues, image data from the large Herschel infrared observatory traces enormous lanes of dust, warmed by stars, sweeping along Andromeda's spiral arms. The dust, in conjunction with the galaxy's interstellar gas, comprises the raw material for future star formation. X-ray data from the XMM-Newton observatory in blue pinpoint Andromeda's X-ray binary star systems. These systems likely contain neutron stars or stellar mass black holes that represent final stages in stellar evolution. More than twice the size of our own Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy is over 200,000 light-years across.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 December 3 - M33: Triangulum Galaxy
Explanation: The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp, detailed image nicely shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions that trace the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 4 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 November 16 - Atoms for Peace Galaxy Collision
Explanation: Is this what will become of our Milky Way Galaxy? Perhaps if we collide with the Andromeda Galaxy in a few billion years, it might. Pictured above is NGC 7252, a jumble of stars created by a huge collision between two large galaxies. The collision will take hundreds of millions of years and so is effectively caught frozen in time in the above image. The resulting pandemonium has been dubbed the Atoms-for-Peace galaxy because of its similarity to a cartoon of a large atom. The above image was taken recently by the MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope in Chile. NGC 7252 spans about 600,000 light years and lies about 220 million light years away toward the constellation of the Water Bearer (Aquarius). Since the sideways velocity of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is presently unknown, no one really knows for sure if the Milky Way will ever collide with M31.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 October 27 - Ultraviolet Andromeda
Explanation: This stunning vista represents the highest resolution image ever made of the Andromeda Galaxy (aka M31) at ultraviolet wavelengths. Recorded by NASA's Swift satellite, the mosaic is composed of 330 individual images covering a region 200,000 light-years wide. It shows about 20,000 sources, dominated by hot, young stars and dense star clusters that radiate strongly in energetic ultraviolet light. Of course, the Andromeda Galaxy is the closest large spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way, at a distance of some 2.5 million light-years. Just slide your cursor over the image to compare the appearance of this gorgeous island universe in optical light with its ultraviolet portrait.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 August 21 - Perseid Storm
Explanation: Storms on the distant horizon and comet dust raining through the heavens above are combined in this alluring nightscape. The scene was recorded in the early hours of August 13 from the Keota Star Party site on the Pawnee National Grasslands of northeastern Colorado, USA. Looking east across the prairie, the composite of 8 consecutive exposures each 30 seconds long captures the flash of lightning and a bright Perseid meteor. On the right, even the clouds can't block the light from brilliant planet Jupiter, whose mythological namesake knew how to handle both lightning bolts and meteors. Of course, this meteor's streak points back toward the shower's radiant in the heroic constellation Perseus, sharing a starry background that includes the Pleiades star cluster poised above the storm clouds. Just above the bright meteor lies the faint Andromeda Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 August 12 - Perseid Prelude
Explanation: Each August, as planet Earth swings through dust trailing along the orbit of periodic comet Swift-Tuttle, skygazers can enjoy the Perseid Meteor Shower. The shower should build to its peak now, best seen from later tonight after moonset, until dawn tomorrow morning when Earth moves through the denser part of the wide dust trail. But shower meteors have been spotted for many days, like this bright Perseid streaking through skies near Lake Balaton, Hungary on August 8. In the foreground is the region's Church of St. Andrew ruin, with bright Jupiter dominating the sky to its right. Two galaxies lie in the background of the wide-angle, 3 frame panorama; our own Milky Way's luminous arc, and the faint smudge of the more distant Andromeda Galaxy just above the ruin's leftmost wall. If you watch for Perseid meteors tonight, be sure and check out the early evening sky show too, featuring bright planets and a young crescent Moon near the western horizon after sunset.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 July 23 - Messier 76
Explanation: "Nebula at the right foot of Andromeda ... " begins the description for the 76th object in Charles Messier's 18th century Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters. In fact, M76 is one of the fainter objects on the Messier list and is also known by the popular name of the "Little Dumbbell Nebula". Like its brighter namesake M27 (the Dumbbell Nebula), M76 is recognized as a planetary nebula - a gaseous shroud cast off by a dying sunlike star. The nebula itself is thought to be shaped more like a donut, while the box-like appearance of its brighter central region is due to our nearly edge-on view. Gas expanding more rapidly away from the donut hole produces the fainter loops of far flung material. The fainter material is emphasized in this composite image, highlighted by showing emission from hydrogen atoms in orange and oxygen atoms in complementary blue hues. The nebula's dying star can be picked out in the sharp false-color image as the blue-tinted star near the center of the box-like shape. Distance estimates place M76 about 3 to 5 thousand light-years away, making the nebula over a light-year in diameter.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 February 25 - Edge-on Spiral Galaxy NGC 891
Explanation: This beautiful cosmic portrait features NGC 891. The spiral galaxy spans about 100 thousand light-years and is seen almost exactly edge-on from our perspective. In fact, about 30 million light-years distant in the constellation Andromeda, NGC 891 looks a lot like our Milky Way. At first glance, it has a flat, thin, galactic disk and a central bulge cut along the middle by regions of dark obscuring dust. Also apparent in NGC 891's edge-on presentation are filaments of dust that extend hundreds of light-years above and below the center line. The dust has likely been blown out of the disk by supernova explosions or intense star formation activity. Faint neighboring galaxies can also been seen near this galaxy's disk.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 February 19 - WISE Infrared Andromeda
Explanation: This sharp, wide-field view features infrared light from the spiral Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Dust heated by Andromeda's young stars is shown in yellow and red, while its older population of stars appears as a bluish haze. The false-color skyscape is a mosaic of images from NASA's new Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite. With over twice the diameter of our Milky Way, Andromeda is the largest galaxy in the local group. Andromeda's own satellite galaxies M110 (below) and M32 (above) are also included in the combined fields. Launched in December 2009, WISE began a six month long infrared survey of the entire sky on January 14. Expected to discover near-Earth asteroids as well as explore the distant universe, its sensitive infrared detectors are cooled by frozen hydrogen.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 January 9 - Andromeda Island Universe
Explanation: The most distant object easily visible to the eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy some two and a half million light-years away. But without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy - spanning over 200,000 light years - appears as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. In contrast, details of a bright yellow nucleus and dark winding dust lanes, are revealed in this digital telescopic image. Narrow band image data recording emission from hydrogen atoms, shows off the reddish star-forming regions dotting gorgeous blue spiral arms and young star clusters. While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers seriously debated this fundamental concept in the 20th century. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying components of our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they instead "island universes" -- distant systems of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations of M31 in favor of Andromeda, island universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 September 17 - Ultraviolet Andromeda
Explanation: Taken by a telescope onboard NASA's Swift satellite, this stunning vista represents the highest resolution image ever made of the Andromeda Galaxy (aka M31) - at ultraviolet wavelengths. The mosaic is composed of 330 individual images covering a region 200,000 light-years wide. It shows about 20,000 sources, dominated by hot, young stars and dense star clusters that radiate strongly in energetic ultraviolet light. Of course, the Andromeda Galaxy is the closest large spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way, at a distance of some 2.5 million light-years. To compare this gorgeous island universe's appearance in optical light with its ultraviolet portrait, just slide your cursor over the image.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 August 27 - A Dark Sky Over Sequoia National Park
Explanation: Scroll right to take in the view from the highest summit in the contiguous USA. The above 360-degree digitally stitched panorama, taken in mid-July, shows the view from 4,400-meter high Mt. Whitney in Sequoia National Park, California. In the foreground, angular boulders populate Mt. Whitney's summit while in the distance, just below the horizon, peaks from the Sierra Nevada mountain range are visible. Sky sights include light pollution emanating from Los Angeles and Fresno, visible just above the horizon. Dark clouds, particularly evident on the image left well above the horizon, are the remnants of a recent thunderstorm near Death Valley. High above, the band of the Milky Way Galaxy arches across the image left. Bright airglow bands are visible all over the sky but are particularly prominent on the image right. The planet Jupiter appears as the brightest point on the image left. A discerning eye can also find a faint image of the far distant Andromeda galaxy, a satellite trail, and many constellations. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the completion of the historic stone shelter on Mt. Whitney, visible toward the image right.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 May 10 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the above image of M31 is a digital mosaic of 20 frames taken with a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including how it acquired its unusual double-peaked center.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 February 12 - Zodiacal Light Vs. Milky Way
Explanation: Two fundamental planes of planet Earth's sky compete for attention in this remarkable wide-angle vista, recorded on January 23rd. Arcing above the horizon and into the night at the left is a beautiful band of Zodiacal Light - sunlight scattered by dust in the solar system's ecliptic plane. Its opponent on the right is composed of the faint stars, dust clouds, and nebulae along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Both celestial bands stand above the domes and towers of the Teide Observatory on the island of Tenerife. Also out to play in the pristine, dark skies over the Canary Islands, are brilliant Venus (lower left), the distant Andromeda Galaxy (near center), and the lovely Pleiades star cluster (top center). Of course, seasoned skygazers might even spot M33, the California Nebula, IC1805, and the double star cluster of Perseus. (Need some help? Just slide your cursor over the picture.)

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 November 15 - Arp 273
Explanation: The two prominent stars in the foreground of this colorful skyscape are well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Their spiky appearance is due to diffraction in the astronomer's telescope. But the two eye-catching galaxies in view lie far beyond the Milky Way, at a distance of about 200 million light-years. Their distorted appearance is due to gravitational tides as the pair engage in close encounters. From our perspective, the bright cores of the galaxies are separated by about 80,000 light-years. Cataloged as Arp 273 (also as UGC 1810), the galaxies do look peculiar, but interacting galaxies are now understood to be common in the universe. In fact, the nearby large spiral Andromeda Galaxy is known to be some 2 million light-years away and approaching the Milky Way. Arp 273 may offer an analog of their far future encounter. Repeated galaxy encounters on a cosmic timescale can ultimately result in a merger into a single galaxy of stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 September 13 - M33: Triangulum Galaxy
Explanation: The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp, detailed image nicely shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions that trace the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 1 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 September 9 - M110: Satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Our Milky Way Galaxy is not alone. It is part of a gathering of about 25 galaxies known as the Local Group. Members include the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31), M32, M33, the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Small Magellanic Cloud, Dwingeloo 1, several small irregular galaxies, and many dwarf elliptical and dwarf spheroidal galaxies. Pictured on the lower right is one of the dwarf ellipticals: NGC 205. Like M32, NGC 205 is a companion to the large M31, and can sometimes be seen to the south of M31's center in photographs. The image shows NGC 205 to be unusual for an elliptical galaxy in that it contains at least two dust clouds (at 9 and 2 o'clock - they are visible but hard to spot) and signs of recent star formation. This galaxy is sometimes known as M110, although it was actually not part of Messier's original catalog.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 July 21 - The Colliding Spiral Galaxies of Arp 271
Explanation: What will become of these galaxies? Spiral galaxies NGC 5426 and NGC 5427 are passing dangerously close to each other, but each is likely to survive this collision. Most frequently when galaxies collide, a large galaxy eats a much smaller galaxy. In this case, however, the two galaxies are quite similar, each being a sprawling spiral with expansive arms and a compact core. As the galaxies advance over the next tens of millions of years, their component stars are unlikely to collide, although new stars will form in the bunching of gas caused by gravitational tides. Close inspection of the above image taken by the 8-meter Gemini-South Telescope in Chile shows a bridge of material momentarily connecting the two giants. Known collectively as Arp 271, the interacting pair spans about 130,000 light years and lies about 90 million light-years away toward the constellation of Virgo. Quite possibly, our Milky Way Galaxy will undergo a similar collision with the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy in about five billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 May 7 - The Gegenschein Over Chile
Explanation: Is the night sky darkest in the direction opposite the Sun? No. In fact, a rarely discernable faint glow known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow") can be seen 180 degrees around from the Sun in an extremely dark sky. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Pictured above from last October is one of the most spectacular pictures of the gegenschein yet taken. Here a deep exposure of an extremely dark sky over Paranal Observatory in Chile shows the gegenschein so clearly that even a surrounding glow is visible. In the foreground are several of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescopes, while notable background objects include the Andromeda galaxy toward the lower left and the Pleiades star cluster just above the horizon. The gegenschein is distinguished from zodiacal light near the Sun by the high angle of reflection. During the day, a phenomenon similar to the gegenschein called the glory can be seen in reflecting air or clouds opposite the Sun from an airplane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 April 30 - Arp 272
Explanation: Linking spiral arms, two large colliding galaxies are featured in this Hubble Space Telescope view, part of a series of cosmic snapshots released to celebrate the Hubble's 18th anniversary. Recorded in astronomer Halton Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies as Arp 272, the pair is otherwise known as NGC 6050 and IC 1179. They lie some 450 million light-years away in the Hercules Galaxy Cluster. At that estimated distance, the picture spans over 150 thousand light-years. Although this scenario does look peculiar, galaxy collisions and their eventual mergers are now understood to be common, with Arp 272 representing a stage in this inevitable process. In fact, the nearby large spiral Andromeda Galaxy is known to be approaching our own galaxy and Arp 272 may offer a glimpse of the far future collision between Andromeda and the Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 April 15 - Sky Delights Over Sweden
Explanation: This night was a sky enthusiast's delight. While relaxing in Sweden last week, many a cosmic wonder was captured with a single snapshot. They are described here from near to far. In the foreground are nearby trees and more distant snow covered mountains. In silhouette, Clouds can be seen just above the horizon, and a careful eye can even discern the more distant green and red auroras which occur in Earth's upper atmosphere. Red emission nebulas dot the sky, including the Heart and Soul Nebulas, IC 1396 and the North America Nebula. Running diagonally from the upper left to the lower right is the majestic glowing band of our Milky Way Galaxy's central plane.. More distant than everything else, appearing as it did over two million years ago, is the Andromeda galaxy, visible above the horizon toward on the lower left.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 March 28 - Across the Universe
Explanation: How far can you see? Even the faintest stars visible to the eye are merely hundreds or thousands of light-years distant, all well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Of course, if you know where to look you can also spot the Andromeda Galaxy as a pale, fuzzy cloud, around 2.5 million light-years away. But staring toward the northern constellation Bootes on March 19th, even without binoculars or telescope you still could have witnessed a faint, brief, flash of light from a gamma-ray burst. The source of that burst has been discovered to lie over halfway across the Universe at a distance of about 7.5 billion light-years. Now holding the distinction of the most distant object that could be seen by the unaided eye and the intrinsically brightest object ever detected, the cosmic explosion is estimated to have been over 2.5 million times more luminous than the brightest known supernova. The monster burst was identified and located by the orbiting Swift satellite, enabling rapid distance measurements and follow-up observations by large ground-based telescopes. The fading afterglow of the gamma-ray burster, cataloged as GRB080319B, is shown in these two panels in X-rays (left) and ultraviolet light (right).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 January 24 - Andromeda Island Universe
Explanation: The most distant object easily visible to the unaided eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy some two and a half million light-years away. But without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy - spanning over 200,000 light years - appears as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. In contrast, a bright yellow nucleus, dark winding dust lanes, gorgeous blue spiral arms and star clusters are recorded in this stunning telescopic digital mosaic. While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers seriously debated this fundamental concept less than 90 years ago. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying components of our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they instead "island universes" -- distant systems of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations of M31 in favor of Andromeda, island universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 July 21 - Infrared Andromeda
Explanation: This wide, detailed Spitzer Space Telescope view features infrared light from dust (red) and old stars (blue) in Andromeda, a massive spiral galaxy a mere 2.5 million light-years away. In fact, with over twice the diameter of our own Milky Way, Andromeda is the largest nearby galaxy. Andromeda's population of bright young stars define its sweeping spiral arms in visible light images, but here the infrared view clearly follows the lumpy dust lanes heated by the young stars as they wind even closer to the galaxy's core. Constructed to explore Andromeda's infrared brightness and stellar populations, the full mosaic image is composed of about 3,000 individual frames. Two smaller companion galaxies, NGC 205 (below) and M32 (above) are also included in the combined fields. The data confirm that Andromeda (aka M31) houses around 1 trillion stars, compared to 4 hundred billion for the Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 March 31 - Hale-Bopp: The Great Comet of 1997
Explanation: Ten short years ago, Comet Hale-Bopp rounded the Sun and offered a dazzling spectacle in planet Earth's night. This stunning view, recorded shortly after the comet's perihelion passage on April 1, 1997, features the memorable tails of Hale-Bopp -- a whitish dust tail and blue ion tail. Here, the ion tail extends well over ten degrees across the northern sky, fading near the double star clusters in Perseus, while the head of the comet lies near Almach, a bright star in the constellation Andromeda. Do you remember Hale-Bopp? The photographer's sons do, pictured in the foreground at ages 12 and 15. In all, Hale-Bopp was reported as visible to the naked eye from roughly late May 1996 through September 1997.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 March 19 - Galaxy Group Hickson 44
Explanation: Galaxies, like stars, frequently form groups. A group of galaxies is a system containing more than two galaxies but less than the tens or hundreds typically found in a cluster of galaxies. A most notable example is the Local Group of Galaxies, which houses over 30 galaxies including our Milky Way, Andromeda, and the Magellanic Clouds. Pictured above is nearby compact group Hickson 44. This group is located about 60 million light-years away toward the constellation of Leo. Also known as the NGC 3190 Group, Hickson 44 contains several bright spiral galaxies and one bright elliptical galaxy on the upper left. The bright source on the upper right is a foreground star. Many galaxies in Hickson 44 and other compact groups are either slowly merging or gravitationally pulling each other apart.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 December 28 - Moon Over Andromeda
Explanation: The Great Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda (aka M31), a mere 2.5 million light-years distant, is the closest large spiral to our own Milky Way. Andromeda is visible to the unaided eye as a small, faint, fuzzy patch, but because its surface brightness is so low, casual skygazers can't appreciate the galaxy's impressive extent in planet Earth's sky. This entertaining composite image compares the angular size of the nearby galaxy to a brighter, more familiar celestial sight. In it, a deep exposure of Andromeda, tracing beautiful blue star clusters in spiral arms far beyond the bright yellow core, is combined with a typical view of a nearly full Moon. Shown at the same angular scale, the Moon covers about 1/2 degree on the sky, while the galaxy is clearly several times that size. The deep Andromeda exposure also includes two bright satellite galaxies, M32 and M110 (bottom).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 November 26 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the above image of M31 is a digital mosaic of 20 frames taken with a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including how the center acquired two nuclei.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 November 2 - Messier 76
Explanation: "Nebula at the right foot of Andromeda ... " begins the description for the 76th object in Charles Messier's 18th century Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters. In fact, M76 is one of the fainter objects on the Messier list and is also known by the popular name of the "Little Dumbbell Nebula". Like its brighter namesake M27 (the Dumbbell Nebula), M76 is recognized as a planetary nebula - a gaseous shroud cast off by a dying sunlike star. The nebula itself is thought to be shaped more like a donut, while its box-like appearance is due to our nearly edge-on view. Gas expanding more rapidly away from the donut hole produces the faint loops of far flung material. The nebula's dying star can be picked out in this sharp color image as the bottom, blue-tinted member of the double star near the center of the box-like shape. Distance estimates place M76 about 3 to 5 thousand light-years away, making the nebula over a light-year in diameter.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 September 14 - M33: Spiral Galaxy in Triangulum
Explanation: The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this detailed, wide field image nicely shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions which trace the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 1 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 September 8 - Messier 110
Explanation: This very sharp telescopic vista features the last object in the modern version of Charles Messier's catalog of bright clusters and nebulae - Messier 110. A dwarf elliptical galaxy, M110 (aka NGC 205) is actually a bright satellite of the large spiral galaxy Andromeda, making M110 a fellow member of the local group of galaxies. Seen through a foreground of nearby stars, M110 is about 15,000 light-years across. That makes it comparable in size to satellite galaxies of our own Milky Way, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Though elliptical galaxies are normally thought to be lacking in gas and dust to form new stars, M110 is known to contain young stars, and faint dust clouds can easily be seen in this detailed image at about the 7 and 11 o'clock positions relative to the galaxy center.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 August 13 - The Comet and the Galaxy
Explanation: The Moon almost ruined this photograph. During late March and early April 1997, Comet Hale-Bopp passed nearly in front of the Andromeda Galaxy. Here the Great Comet of 1997 and the Great Galaxy in Andromeda were photographed together on 1997 March 24th. The problem was the brightness of the Moon. The Moon was full that night and so bright that long exposures meant to capture the tails of Hale-Bopp and the disk of M31 would capture instead only moonlight reflected off the Earth's atmosphere. By the time the Moon would set, this opportunity would be gone. That's why this picture was taken during a total lunar eclipse.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 June 9 - Infrared Andromeda
Explanation: This wide, detailed Spitzer Space Telescope view features infrared light from dust (red) and old stars (blue) in Andromeda, a massive spiral galaxy a mere 2.5 million light-years away. In fact, with over twice the diameter of our own Milky Way, Andromeda is the largest nearby galaxy. Andromeda's population of bright young stars define its sweeping spiral arms in visible light images, but here the infrared view clearly follows the lumpy dust lanes heated by the young stars as they wind even closer to the galaxy's core. Constructed to explore Andromeda's infrared brightness and stellar populations, the full mosaic image is composed of about 3,000 individual frames. Two smaller companion galaxies, NGC 205 (below) and M32 (above) are also included in the combined fields. The data confirm that Andromeda (aka M31) houses around 1 trillion stars, compared to 4 hundred billion for the Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 December 22 - Andromeda Island Universe
Explanation: The most distant object easily visible to the unaided eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy some two million light-years away. But without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy - spanning over 200,000 light years - appears as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. In contrast, a bright yellow nucleus, dark winding dust lanes, gorgeous blue spiral arms and star clusters are recorded in this stunning telescopic digital mosaic with a cumulative exposure of over 90 hours. While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers seriously debated this fundamental concept only 80 years ago. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying components of our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they instead "island universes" -- distant systems of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations of M31 in favor of Andromeda, island universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 October 20 - The Andromeda Galaxy in Infrared
Explanation: What is the Andromeda galaxy really like? To find out, astronomers looked at our largest galactic neighbor in a different light: infrared. Astronomers trained the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope at the Messier monster (M31) for over 18 hours, creating a mosaic that incorporated 11,000 separate exposures. The result, pictured above, shows M31 in greater infrared detail than ever before. Infrared light in this 24-micron color band is particularly sensitive to dust heated up by stars. Visible above are previously undiscovered features including intricate structure in the spiral arms, a spiral arc near the center, an off center ring of star formation, and an unusual hole in the galaxy's disk. In contrast, the Andromeda galaxy appears much smoother in visible light and even ultraviolet light. Analyses and comparison of this image to other images will likely yield clues not only to the violent past of M31 but to our own Milky Way Galaxy as well.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 December 27 - Andromeda's Core
Explanation: The center of the Andromeda galaxy is beautiful but strange. Andromeda, indexed as M31, is so close to our own Milky Way Galaxy that it gives a unique perspective into galaxy composition by allowing us to see into its core. Billions of stars swarm around a center that has two nuclei and likely houses a supermassive black hole over 5 million times the mass of our Sun. M31 is about two million light years away and visible with the unaided eye towards the constellation of Andromeda, the princess. Pictured above, dark knots of dust are seen superposed on the inner 10,000 light years of M31's core. The brighter stars are foreground stars located in our Milky Way Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 December 14 - Nearby Spiral M33
Explanation: Spiral galaxy M33 is a mid-sized member of our Local Group of Galaxies. M33 is also called the Triangulum Galaxy for the constellation in which it resides. About four times smaller (in radius) than our Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), it is much larger than the many of the local dwarf spheroidal galaxies. M33's proximity to M31 causes it to be thought by some to be a satellite galaxy of this more massive galaxy. M33's proximity to our Milky Way Galaxy causes it to appear more than twice the angular size of the Full Moon, and be visible with a good pair of binoculars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 July 18 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the above image of M31 is a digital mosaic of 20 frames taken with a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including how the center acquired two nuclei.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 January 31 - A Galaxy is not a Comet
Explanation: This gorgeous galaxy and comet portrait was recorded on April 5th, 2002, in the skies over the Oriental Pyrenees near Figueres, Spain. From a site above 1,100 meters, astrophotographer Juan Carlos Casado used a guided time exposure, fast film, and a telephoto lens to capture the predicted conjunction of the bright Comet Ikeya-Zhang (right) and the Andromeda Galaxy (left). This stunning celestial scene would also have been a rewarding one for the influential 18th century comet hunter Charles Messier. While Messier scanned French skies for comets, he carefully cataloged positions of things which were fuzzy and comet-like in appearance but did not move against the background stars and so were definitely not comets. The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, is the 31st object in his famous not-a-comet catalog. Not-a-comet object number 110, a late addition to Messier's catalog, is one of Andromeda's small satellite galaxies, and can be seen here just below M31. Our modern understanding holds that the Andromeda galaxy is a large spiral galaxy some 2 million light-years distant. The photogenic Comet Ikeya-Zhang, then a lovely sight in early morning skies was about 80 million kilometers (4 light-minutes) from planet Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 December 22 - The Andromeda Galaxy from GALEX
Explanation: Why does the Andromeda Galaxy have a giant ring? Viewed in ultraviolet light, the closest major galaxy to our Milky Way Galaxy looks more like a ring galaxy than a spiral. The ring is highlighted beautifully in this newly released image mosaic of Andromeda (M31) taken by the GALaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), a satellite launched into Earth orbit in April. In the above image, ultraviolet colors have been digitally shifted to the visual. Young blue stars dominate the image, indicating the star forming ring as well as other star forming regions even further from the galactic center. The origin of the huge 150,000-light year ring is unknown but likely related to gravitational interactions with small satellite galaxies that orbit near the galactic giant. M31 lies about three million light-years distant and is bright enough to be seen without binoculars toward the constellation of Andromeda.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 September 24 - M33: Spiral Galaxy in Triangulum
Explanation: The small constellation Triangulum in the northern sky harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33's diameter spans over 50,000 light-years, making it third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 lies very close to the Andromeda Galaxy and observers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp 27 frame mosaic of M33 nicely shows off blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions which trace the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region seen here, visible along an arm arcing above and to the right of the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 August 25 - The Northern Milky Way
Explanation: Many of the stars in our home Milky Way Galaxy appear together as a dim band on the sky that passes nearly over the Earth's north and south poles. Pictured above is the part of our Galaxy that passes closest over the north pole. Placing your cursor over the image will bring up the names of several constellations and bright stars. The diffuse white Galaxy glow is created by billions of stars, while red patches are large emission nebulas, usually marking areas where bright stars have recently formed. In the north, all of the lights visible at night and all lights that created this image were emitted within the past few thousand years from within the Milky Way Galaxy -- except one. On the upper right is a small faint patch designated M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. M31 is a spiral galaxy similar to our Milky Way but so distant it emits the oldest light distinguishable by the unaided eye -- light that takes over two million years to reach us.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 August 2 - Island Universe, Cosmic Sand
Explanation: On August 13, 2002, while counting Perseid meteors under dark, early morning Arizona skies, Rick Scott set out to photograph their fleeting but fiery trails. The equipment he used included a telephoto lens and fast color film. After 21 pictures he'd caught only two meteors, but luckily this was one of them. Tracking the sky, his ten minute long exposure shows a field of many stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, most too faint to be seen by the unaided eye. Flashing from lower left to upper right, the bright meteor would have been an easy eyeful though, as friction with Earth's atmosphere vaporized the hurtling grain of cosmic sand, a piece of dust from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Just above and left of center, well beyond the stars of the Milky Way, lies the island universe known as M31 or the Andromeda galaxy. The visible meteor trail begins about 100 kilometers above Earth's surface, one of the closest celestial objects seen in the sky. In contrast, Andromeda, about 2 million light-years away, is the most distant object easily visible to the naked-eye.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 July 27 -The Aquarius Dwarf
Explanation: Our Milky Way Galaxy is not alone. It is part of a gathering of about 50 galaxies known as the Local Group. Members include the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31), M32, M33, the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Small Magellanic Cloud, Dwingeloo 1, several small irregular galaxies, and many dwarf elliptical and dwarf spheroidal galaxies. Pictured above is the Aquarius Dwarf, a faint dwarf irregular galaxy over 3 million light years away. An earlier APOD erroneously identified the above image as the Sagittarius Dwarf.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 May 19 - The Andromeda Deep Field
Explanation: What can you learn from looking into the depths of space? In an effort to find out true ages of stars in neighboring Andromeda galaxy's halo, astronomers stared into the galaxy giant with the new Advanced Camera for Surveys through the Hubble Space Telescope. The resulting exposure of over three days, shown above, is the deepest exposure in visible light ever taken, although shorter in duration than the multi-wavelength effort toward the Hubble Deep Field. The final image illuminated not only Andromeda (M31) but the distant universe. Andromeda's halo stars turned out to be have a wider range of ages than our Milky Way's halo stars, likely indicating more encounters with small neighboring galaxies. Visible on the above left is one of Andromeda's globular star clusters, while literally thousands of background galaxies are seen in the distance universe, far beyond M31.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 December 2 - Nearby Spiral M33
Explanation: Spiral galaxy M33 is a mid-sized member of our Local Group of Galaxies. M33 is also called the Triangulum Galaxy for the constellation in which it resides. About four times smaller (in radius) than our Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), it is much larger than the many of the local dwarf spheroidal galaxies. M33's proximity to M31 causes it to be thought by some to be a satellite galaxy of this more massive galaxy. M33's proximity to our Milky Way Galaxy causes it to appear more than twice the angular size of the Full Moon, and be visible with a good pair of binoculars. The above high-resolution image from the 0.90-m telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory is a four-color composite.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 October 21 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the above image of M31 is a digital mosaic of 20 frames taken with a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including how the center acquired two nuclei.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 August 23 - Island Universe, Cosmic Sand
Explanation: On August 13, while counting Perseid meteors under dark, early morning Arizona skies, Rick Scott set out to photograph their fleeting but fiery trails. The equipment he used included a telephoto lens and fast color film. After 21 pictures he'd caught only two meteors, but luckily this was one of them. Tracking the sky, his ten minute long exposure shows a field of many stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, most too faint to be seen by the unaided eye. Flashing from lower left to upper right, the bright meteor would have been an easy eyeful though, as friction with Earth's atmosphere vaporized the hurtling grain of cosmic sand, a piece of dust from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Just above and left of center, well beyond the stars of the Milky Way, lies the island universe known as M31 or the Andromeda galaxy. The visible meteor trail begins about 100 kilometers above Earth's surface, one of the closest celestial objects seen in the sky. In contrast, Andromeda, about 2 million light-years away, is the most distant object easily visible to the naked-eye.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 July 21 - Nearby Spiral Galaxy NGC 4945
Explanation: For such a close galaxy, NGC 4945 is easy to miss. NGC 4945 is a spiral galaxy in the Centaurus Group of galaxies, located only six times farther away than the prominent Andromeda Galaxy. The thin disk galaxy is oriented nearly edge-on, however, and shrouded in dark dust. Therefore galaxy-gazers searching the southern constellation of Centaurus need a telescope to see it. The above picture was taken with a large telescope testing a new wide-angle, high-resolution CCD camera. Most of the spots scattered about the frame are foreground stars in our own Galaxy, but some spots are globular clusters orbiting the distant galaxy. NGC 4945 is thought to be quite similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy. X-ray observations reveal, however, that NGC 4945 has an unusual, energetic, Seyfert 2 nucleus that might house a large black hole.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 May 18 - Andromeda Island Universe
Explanation: How far can you see? The most distant object easily visible to the unaided eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy some two million light-years away. Without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy appears as an unremarkable, faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. But a bright yellow nucleus, dark winding dust lanes, gorgeous blue spiral arms and star clusters are recorded in this stunning telescopic digital mosaic of the nearby island universe. While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers seriously debated this fundamental concept only 80 years ago. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying components of our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they instead "island universes" -- distant systems of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations of M31 in favor of Andromeda, island universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 April 12 - A Galaxy is not a Comet
Explanation: This gorgeous galaxy and comet portrait was recorded on April 5th in the skies over the Oriental Pyrenees near Figueres, Spain. From a site above 1,100 meters, astrophotographer Juan Carlos Casado used a guided time exposure, fast film, and a telephoto lens to capture the predicted conjunction of the bright Comet Ikeya-Zhang (right) and the Andromeda Galaxy (left). This stunning celestial scene would also have been a rewarding one for the influential 18th century comet hunter Charles Messier. While Messier scanned French skies for comets, he carefully cataloged positions of things which were fuzzy and comet-like in appearance but did not move against the background stars and so were definitely not comets. The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, is the 31st object in his famous not-a-comet catalog. Not-a-comet object number 110, a late addition to Messier's catalog, is one of Andromeda's small satellite galaxies, and can be seen here just below M31. Our modern understanding holds that the Andromeda galaxy is a large spiral galaxy some 2 million light-years distant. The photogenic Comet Ikeya-Zhang, now a lovely sight in early morning skies, is about 80 million kilometers (4 light-minutes) from planet Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 April 4 - Ikeya-Zhang: Comet Over Colorado
Explanation: Comet Ikeya-Zhang ("ee-KAY-uh JONG") has become a most photogenic comet. This lovely early evening view of the comet in Rocky Mountain skies looks northwest over ridges and low clouds. The time exposure was recorded on March 31st from an 8,000 foot elevation near Yampa, Colorado, USA. Sporting a sweeping yellowish dust tail and blue ion tail eight to ten degrees long, Ikeya-Zhang is nestled near the horizon in the northern constellation of Andromeda. To the comet's left is the bright star Mirach or Beta Andromedae while the stretched celestial fuzzball to the comet's right is M31 or the Andromeda galaxy, the nearest bright spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way. As the days pass, Comet Ikeya-Zhang's apparent motion through the sky is towards the right in this image. Tonight, comet-watchers blessed with clear skies should find Ikeya-Zhang posing perfectly for binoculars and cameras just above M31, less than two degrees from the center of the bright galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 September 27 - Elements of Nearby Spiral M33
Explanation: Spiral galaxy M33 is a mid-sized member of our Local Group of Galaxies. M33 is also called the Triangulum Galaxy for the constellation in which it resides. About four times smaller (in radius) than our Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), it is much larger than the many of the local dwarf spheroidal galaxies. M33's proximity to M31 causes it to be thought by some to be a satellite galaxy of this more massive galaxy. M33's proximity to our Milky Way Galaxy causes it to appear more than twice the angular size of the Full Moon, and be visible with a good pair of binoculars. The above high-resolution image highlights light emitted by hydrogen in red and oxygen in blue. It was taken to help separate stars from emission nebulae, and therefore help study how galaxies form stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 September 17 - Southwest Andromeda
Explanation: This new image composite of the southwest region of M31 from the Subaru Telescope shows many stars, nebulae, and star clusters never before resolved. An older population of stars near Andromeda's center causes the yellow hue visible on the upper right. Young blue stars stand out in the spiral arms on the lower left. Red emission nebula, blue open clusters of stars, and sweeping lanes of dark dust punctuate the swirling giant. Andromeda, at about 2.5 million light years distant, and our Milky Way are the largest galaxies in the Local Group of Galaxies. Understanding M31 helps astronomers to understand our own Milky Way Galaxy, since the two are so similar.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 October 23 - Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy NGC 205 in the Local Group
Explanation: Our Milky Way Galaxy is not alone. It is part of a gathering of about 25 galaxies known as the Local Group. Members include the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31), M32, M33, the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Small Magellanic Cloud, Dwingeloo 1, several small irregular galaxies, and many dwarf elliptical and dwarf spheroidal galaxies. Pictured on the lower left is one of the many dwarf ellipticals: NGC 205. Like M32, NGC 205 is a companion to the large M31, and can sometimes be seen to the south of M31's center in photographs. The above image shows NGC 205 to be unusual for an elliptical galaxy in that it contains at least two dust clouds (at 1 and 4 o'clock - they are visible but hard to spot) and signs of recent star formation. This galaxy is sometimes known as M110, although it was actually not part of Messier's original catalog.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 September 8 - Andromeda Island Universe
Explanation: How far can you see? The most distant object easily visible to the unaided eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy some two million light-years away. Without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy appears as an unremarkable, faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. But a bright yellow nucleus, dark winding dustlanes, gorgeous blue spiral arms and star clusters are recorded in this stunning telescopic digital mosaic of the nearby island universe. While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers seriously debated this fundamental concept only 80 years ago. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying components of our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they instead "island universes" -- distant systems of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations of M31 in favor of Andromeda, island universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 March 11 - Messier Marathon
Explanation: Gripped by an astronomical spring fever, it's once again time for many amateur stargazers to embark on a Messier Marathon! The Vernal Equinox occurs March 20, marking the first day of Spring for the Northern Hemisphere. It also marks a favorable celestial situation for potentially viewing all the objects in 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier's catalog in one glorious dusk to dawn observing run. This year a bright full moon will interfere with dark skies near the actual equinox, so good nights near new moon for weekend marathoners are March 11/12 and April 1/2. (As an added bonus all the planets in the solar system can be viewed on these dates.) Astronomer Paul Gitto has created this masterful Messier Marathon grid with 11 rows and 10 columns of Messier catalog objects. In numerical order, the grid begins with M1, the Crab Nebula, at upper left and ends with M110, a small elliptical galaxy in Andromeda (lower right). Gitto's images were made with a digital camera and a 10-inch diameter reflecting telescope.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 January 21 - X For Andromeda
Explanation: A big beautiful spiral galaxy 2 million light-years away, Andromeda (M31) has long been touted as an analog to the Milky Way, a distant mirror of our own galaxy. The popular 1960s British sci-fi series, A For Andromeda, even postulated that it was home to another technological civilization that communicated with us. Using the newly unleashed observing power of the orbiting Chandra X-ray telescope, astronomers have now imaged the center of our near-twin island universe, finding evidence for an object so bizarre it would have impressed many 60s science fiction writers (and readers). Like the Milky Way, Andromeda's galactic center appears to harbor an X-ray source characteristic of a black hole of a million or more solar masses. Seen above, the false-color X-ray picture shows a number of X-ray sources, likely X-ray binary stars, within Andromeda's central region as yellowish dots. The blue source located right at the galaxy's center is coincident with the position of the suspected massive black hole. While the X-rays are produced as material falls into the black hole and heats up, estimates from the X-ray data show Andromeda's central source to be surprisingly cool - only a million degrees or so compared to the tens of millions of degrees indicated for Andromeda's X-ray binaries.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 18, 1999 - Irregular Galaxy Sextans A
Explanation: Grand spiral galaxies often seem to get all the glory. Their newly formed, bright, blue star clusters found along beautiful, symmetric spiral arms are guaranteed to attract attention. But small irregular galaxies form stars too, like this lovely, gumdrop-shaped galaxy, Sextans A. A member of the local group of galaxies which includes the massive spirals Andromeda and our own Milky Way, Sextans A is about 10 million light years distant. The bright Milky Way foreground stars appear yellowish in this view. Beyond them lie the stars of Sextans A with tantalizing young blue clusters clearly visible.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 14, 1999 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Much about M31 remains unknown, including why the center contains two nuclei.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 3, 1999 - M32: Blue Stars in an Elliptical Galaxy
Explanation: Elliptical galaxies are known for their old, red stars. But is this old elliptical up to new tricks? In recent years, the centers of elliptical galaxies have been found to emit unexpectedly high amounts of blue and ultraviolet light. Most blue light from spiral galaxies originates from massive young hot stars, in contrast to the red light from the old cool stars thought to compose ellipticals. In the above recently released, false-color photograph by the Hubble Space Telescope, the center of nearby dwarf elliptical M32 has actually been resolved and does indeed show thousands of bright blue stars. The answer is probably that these blue stars are also old and glow blue, reaching relatively high temperatures by the advanced process of fusing helium, rather than hydrogen, in their cores. M32 appears in many pictures as the companion galaxy to the massive Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 22, 1999 - Where is Upsilon Andromedae
Explanation: Astronomers recently announced the detection of three large planets orbiting the star Upsilon Andromedae - the first planetary system known to orbit a normal star other than our Sun. These planets were not directly photographed but found through a Doppler technique developed to use large telescopes to search nearby stars for wobbling planetary signatures. However, Upsilon And itself is visible to the unaided eye shining in Earth's sky in the northern constellation Andromeda at about 4th magnitude. This deep photographic image shows Upsilon And along with fainter stars and "deep sky" objects including the famous Andromeda spiral galaxy or M31 (right), the Triangulum galaxy or M33 (below), and the star cluster NGC 752 (left). About 44 light-years distant, Upsilon And is a star only a little more massive and just slightly hotter than the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 16, 1999 - Upsilon Andromedae: An Extra Solar System
Explanation: Yesterday, astronomers announced the discovery of the first system of planets around a normal star other than our Sun. Previously, only single planet star systems had been found. Subtle changes in the wobble of Upsilon Andromedae, a Sun-like star in the constellation of Andromeda, allowed astronomers led by R. Paul Butler (AAO) and Geoffrey W. Marcy (SFSU /UCB) to make the breakthrough. This star system is quite different from our own Solar System, however. All three detected planets have masses near or above Jupiter. The discovery implies that multiple-planet systems are quite common, increasing speculation that life-bearing planets similar to Earth may one day be found. The drawing above is an artist's depiction of the Upsilon Andromedae system and its innermost planet. This planet orbits unexpectedly close to its parent star.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 12, 1999 - Nearby Spiral Galaxy NGC 4945
Explanation: For such a close galaxy, NGC 4945 is easy to miss. NGC 4945 is a spiral galaxy in the Centaurus Group of galaxies, located only six times farther away than the prominent Andromeda Galaxy. The thin disk galaxy is oriented nearly edge-on, however, and shrouded in dark dust. Therefore galaxy-gazers searching the southern constellation of Centaurus need a telescope to see it. The above picture was taken with a large telescope testing a new wide-angle, high-resolution CCD camera. Most of the spots scattered about the frame are foreground stars in our own Galaxy, but some spots are globular clusters orbiting the distant galaxy. NGC 4945 is thought to be quite similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy. X-ray observations reveal, however, that NGC 4945 has an unusual, energetic, Seyfert 2 nucleus that might house a large black hole.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 2, 1999 - Stars of NGC 206
Explanation: Nestled within the dusty arms of the large spiral galaxy Andromeda (M31), the star cluster NGC 206 is one of the largest star forming regions known in our local group of galaxies. The beautiful bright blue stars of NGC 206 betray its youth - but close, systematic studies of variable stars in and around NGC 206 will also accurately reveal its distance. Astronomers are searching for variable stars in NGC 206, particularly pulsating stars known as Cepheids and eclipsing binary star systems. Distances for these types of stars can be effectively determined by following the periodic changes in their brightness and spectra. About 3 million light-years away, an accurately known distance to NGC 206 and thus M31 is critical to the larger understanding of galaxy formation, galaxy evolution, and ultimately the distance scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: March 18, 1999 - Messier Marathon
Explanation: Gripped by an astronomical spring fever, this week many amateur stargazers embark on a Messier Marathon. The Vernal Equinox occurs Saturday, March 20, marking the first day of Spring for the Northern Hemisphere. It also marks a favorable celestial situation for potentially viewing all the objects in 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier's catalog in one glorious dusk to dawn observing run. This year, interference from bright moonlight will be minimal as the the moon is near its dark or new phase. Astronomer Paul Gitto has created this masterful Messier Marathon grid with 11 rows and 10 columns of Messier catalog objects. In numerical order, the grid begins with M1, the Crab Nebula, at upper left and ends with M110, a small elliptical galaxy in Andromeda (lower right). Gitto's images were made with a digital camera and a 10-inch diameter reflecting telescope.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: March 14, 1999 - The Comet and the Galaxy
Explanation: The Moon almost ruined this photograph. During late March and early April 1997, Comet Hale-Bopp passed nearly in front of the Andromeda Galaxy. Here the Great Comet of 1997 and the Great Galaxy in Andromeda were photographed together on 1997 March 24th. The problem was the brightness of the Moon. The Moon was full that night and so bright that long exposures meant to capture the tails of Hale-Bopp and the disk of M31 would capture instead only moonlight reflected off the Earth's atmosphere. By the time the Moon would set, this opportunity would be gone. That's why this picture was taken during a lunar eclipse.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: February 17, 1999 - Hickson Compact Group 40
Explanation: Galaxies, like stars, frequently form groups. A group of galaxies is a system containing more than two galaxies but less than the tens or hundreds typically found in a cluster of galaxies. A most notable example is the Local Group of Galaxies, which houses over 30 galaxies including our Milky Way, Andromeda, and the Magellanic Clouds. Pictured above is nearby compact group Hickson 40. This group is located about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Hydra. Of the five prominent galaxies in Hickson 40, three are spirals, one is an elliptical and one is a lenticular. Many galaxies in compact groups are either slowly merging or gravitationally pulling each other apart.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 22, 1999 - Pegasus dSph: Little Galaxy of the Local Group
Explanation: The Pegasus dwarf spheroidal galaxy (Peg dSph) is a small, newly recognized member of the Local Group of Galaxies. Likely a satellite companion of the Local Group's dominant player, the large spiral Andromeda (M31), the Pegasus dwarf galaxy is almost hidden in the glare of relatively bright foreground stars in our own Milkyway. Still, this dramatic Keck telescope 3-color image reveals Peg dSph as a clump of fainter, bluer stars 2,000 or so light-years across. Excitement over discoveries of Peg dSph and other nearby dwarf galaxies reflects the fact that little galaxies may loom large in the process of galaxy evolution. They are thought to be the building blocks from which larger galaxies are constructed.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 25, 1997 - The Comet and the Galaxy
Explanation: The Moon almost ruined this photograph. During late March and early April, Comet Hale-Bopp passed nearly in front of the Andromeda Galaxy. Here the Great Comet of 1997 and the Great Galaxy in Andromeda were photographed together on March 24th. The problem was the brightness of the Moon. The Moon was full that night and so bright that long exposures meant to capture the tails of Hale-Bopp and the disk of M31 would capture instead only moonlight reflected off the Earth's atmosphere. By the time the Moon would set, this opportunity would be gone. That's why this picture was taken during the lunar eclipse.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 14, 1997 - Irregular Galaxy Sextans A
Explanation: Grand spiral galaxies often seem to get all the glory. Their newly formed, bright, blue star clusters found along beautiful, symmetric spiral arms are guaranteed to attract attention. But small irregular galaxies form stars too, like this lovely, gumdrop-shaped galaxy, Sextans A. A member of the local group of galaxies which includes the massive spirals Andromeda and our own Milky Way, Sextans A is about 10 million light years distant. The bright Milky Way foreground stars appear yellowish in this view. Beyond them lie the stars of Sextans A with tantalizing young blue clusters clearly visible.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 1, 1997 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about 2 million years for light to reach us from there. Much about M31 remains unknown, including why the center contains two nuclei.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 1, 1997 - Hale-Bopp and Andromeda
Explanation: Which is closer: the comet or the galaxy? Answer: the comet. In its trek through the inner Solar System, Comet Hale-Bopp has passed nearly in front of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), seen on the lower left. At the time of this picture, March 27th, Comet Hale-Bopp was about 10 light-minutes from the Earth, while M31 remained about 3 million light-years distant. By contrast, light can cross the Earth in about 1/20th of a second, and light takes about one second to reach Earth's Moon. Comet Hale-Bopp is one of the largest comets ever recorded, and although its' nucleus has never been photographed, it is estimated from brightness and spin measurements to be about 40 kilometers across. In contrast, Comet Halley in 1987 was measured to be 15 km, and Comet Hyakutake in 1996 was estimated to be no more than 10 km.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: February 20, 1997 - Comet Hale-Bopp and the Dumbbell Nebula
Explanation: Comet Hale-Bopp is now slowly moving across the morning sky. During its trip to our inner Solar System, the comet passes in front of several notable objects. Here Comet Hale-Bopp was photographed on February 11th superposed nearly in front of the picturesque Dumbbell Nebula, visible on the upper right. Comet Hale-Bopp is now first magnitude - one of the brightest objects in the morning sky. APOD, always in search of interesting and accurate astronomy pictures, issues the following informal challenge: that Comet Hale-Bopp be photographed in color with both easily recognizable foreground and background objects. For instance, in late March, it might be possible to photograph the comet with the Eiffel Tower in the foreground and the Andromeda galaxy (M31) in the background. Such superpositions would not only contrast human and cosmic elements, but give angular perspective on the size of the comet's tail.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: October 9, 1996 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about 2 million years for light to reach us from there. Much about M31 remains unknown, including why the center contains two nuclei.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 8, 1996 - M33: The Triangulum Galaxy
Explanation: The spiral galaxy M33 is a mid-sized member of our Local Group of galaxies. M33 is also called the Triangulum Galaxy for the constellation in which it resides. About four times smaller (in radius) than our Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), it is much larger than the many of the local dwarf spheroidal galaxies. M33's proximity to M31 causes it to be thought by some to be a satellite galaxy of this more massive galaxy. M33's proximity to our Milky Way galaxy causes it to appear more than twice the angular size of the full moon, and visible with a good pair of binoculars. In the above picture, visible light is shown in red and ultraviolet light superposed in blue. Stars in M33 are the most distant ever to be studied spectroscopically.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 6, 1996 - Andromeda Nebula: Var!
Explanation: In the 1920s, using photographic plates made with the Mt. Wilson Observatory's 100 inch telescope, Edwin Hubble determined the distance to the Andromeda Nebula - decisively demonstrating the existence of other galaxies far beyond the Milky Way. His notations are evident on the plate shown above (the image is a negative with stars appearing as black dots against the white background of space). By intercomparing plates, Hubble searched for "novae", stars which underwent a sudden increase in brightness. He found several on this plate and marked them with an "N". Later he discovered that one was actually a type of variable star known as a cepheid - crossing out the "N" he wrote "Var!" (upper right). Thanks to the work of Harvard astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, cepheids, regularly varying, pulsating stars, could be used as "standard candle" distance indicators. Identifying such a star allowed Hubble to show that Andromeda was not a small cluster of stars and gas within our own galaxy, but a large galaxy in its own right at a substantial distance from the Milky Way. Hubble's discovery is responsible for our modern concept of a Universe filled with galaxies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 8, 1996 - Local Group Galaxy NGC 205
Explanation: The Milky Way Galaxy is not alone. It is part of a gathering of about 25 galaxies known as the Local Group. Members include the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31), M32, M33, the Large Magellanic Clouds, the Small Magellanic Clouds, Dwingeloo 1, several small irregular galaxies, and many dwarf elliptical galaxies. Pictured is one of the many dwarf ellipticals: NGC 205. Like M32, NGC 205 is a companion to the large M31, and can sometimes be seen to the south of M31's center in photographs. The above image shows this galaxy to be unusual for an elliptical galaxy in that it contains at least two dust clouds (at 7 and 11 o'clock - they are visible but hard to spot) and signs of recent star formation. This galaxy is sometimes known as M110, although it was actually not part of Messier's original catalog.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 6, 1996 - Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy M32
Explanation: Being the largest galaxy around can sometimes make you popular. Pictured is M31's companion galaxy M32. M31, the Andromeda galaxy, is the largest galaxy in our Local Group of galaxies - even our tremendous Milky Way Galaxy is smaller. Little M32 is visible in most pictures of M31 - it is the small circular spot north of M31's center. M32 is a dwarf elliptical galaxy. Elliptical galaxies have little or no measurable gas or dust - they are composed completely of stars and typically appear more red than spiral galaxies. Elliptical galaxies do not have disks - they generally have oblong shapes and therefore show elliptical profiles on the sky.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 24, 1995 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about 2 million years for light to reach us from there.


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