The Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way, our galaxy. Andromeda is sometimes called M31 or NGC 324 by astronomers. It is about 2.6 million light years away from us.
Andromeda is the largest galaxy of the Local Group, which consists of the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Triangulum Galaxy, and about 30 other smaller galaxies. Although the largest, Andromeda may not be the most massive. Recent findings suggest that the Milky Way contains more dark matter and may be the most massive in the grouping.
The 2006 observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope revealed that M31 contains a trillion stars (1012). This is more than the number of stars in our own galaxy, which is estimated to be c. 200-400 billion.
Andromeda is estimated to be 7.1×1011 solar masses. In comparison, a 2009 study estimated that the Milky Way and Andromeda are about equal in mass, while a 2006 study put the mass of the Milky Way at ~80% of the mass of Andromeda.
At an apparent magnitude of 3.4, the Andromeda Galaxy is notable for being one of the brightest Messier objects, making it visible to the naked eye on moonless nights even when viewed from areas with moderate light pollution. Although it appears more than six times as wide as the full Moon when photographed through a larger telescope, only the brighter central region is visible to the naked eye. Being both large and bright, it is one of the farthest objects that can be seen without a telescope or binoculars.
The Andromeda Galaxy is approaching the Milky Way at about 100 to 140 kilometres per second (62 to 87 mi/s), so it is one of the few blue-shifted galaxies. The Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way are thus expected to collide in perhaps 4.5 billion years. A likely outcome of the collision is that the galaxies will merge to form a giant elliptical galaxy. Such events are frequent among the galaxies in galaxy groups.
Observation history [change]
The Persian astronomer Al Sufi was the first man to record seeing the Andromeda Galaxy. He called the Galaxy 'a small cloud' in his book, the Book of Fixed Stars, which was published in 964 AD. The first person to look at the galaxy with a telescope was Simon Marius in 1612. In Charles Messier put it into his catalogue of astronomical objects. He called it M31 and gave the credit for its discovery to Marius, as he did not know that Al Sufi had seen it hundreds of years previously.
In 1751 William Herschel estimated the distance to the Andromeda 'Nebula' as 'no more than 2000 times the distance to Sirius, or around 17,200 light years. The best modern estimate of Andromeda's distance is 2.54 million light years. In the 1920s astronomer Edwin Hubble proved that Andromeda was a galaxy, and not a gas cloud in the Milky Way as had been thought.
- Cox, Brian; Cohen, Andrew (2011). Wonders of the Universe. HarperCollins. p. 25, 48, 169. ISBN 9780007395828.
- Ribas, I.; et al. (2005). "First determination of the distance and fundamental properties of an eclipsing binary in the Andromeda Galaxy". Astrophysical Journal Letters 635 (1): L37–L40. doi:10.1086/499161.
- "Our neighbor Andromeda". NASA. 2011-02-17. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/WISE/multimedia/pia12832-c.html. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- Amos, J. (February 5, 2006). "Dark matter comes out of the cold". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4679220.stm. Retrieved 2006-05-24.
- Young, K. (June 6, 2006). "The Andromeda galaxy hosts a trillion stars". New Scientist. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9282-andromeda-galaxy-hosts-a-trillion-stars.html. Retrieved 2006-06-08.
- "Andromeda Galaxy contains over a trillion stars". New Scientist. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9282-andromeda-galaxy-hosts-a-trillion-stars.html.
- Frommert, H.; Kronberg, C. (August 25, 2005). "The Milky Way Galaxy". SEDS. http://www.seds.org/messier/more/mw.html. Retrieved 2007-05-09.
- Karachentsev, I.D.; Kashibadze, O.G. (2006). "Masses of the local group and of the M81 group estimated from distortions in the local velocity field". Astrophysics 49 (1): 3–18. doi:10.1007/s10511-006-0002-6.
- "Milky Way a swifter pinner, more massive, new measurements show". CfA Press Release No. 2009-03. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. January 5, 2009. http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/press/2009/pr200903.html.
- Frommert, H.; Kronberg, C. (August 22, 2007). "Messier Object Data, sorted by Apparent Visual Magnitude". SEDS. http://seds.lpl.arizona.edu/messier/dataMag.html. Retrieved 2007-08-27.
- "Farthest naked eye object". http://www.uitti.net/stephen/astro/essays/farthest_naked_eye_object.shtml. Retrieved 2010-10-17.
- Malik, T. (7 May 2002). "Crash course: simulating the fate of our Milky Way". Space.com. http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/astronomy/galaxy_collides_020507-1.html. Retrieved 2006-09-18.
- "The grand collision". The Sky At Night. 5 November 2007.
- Cox, T.J.; Loeb, A. (2008). "The collision between the Milky Way and Andromeda". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 386 (1): 461–474. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.13048.x.
- "Abd-al-Rahman Al Sufi (December 7, 903 - May 25, 986 A.D.)". SEDS. http://seds.org/messier/xtra/Bios/alsufi.html. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "Simon Marius (1753-1624)". SEDS. http://messier.obspm.fr/xtra/Bios/marius.html. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
- "Messier 31 - a fact file". SEDS. http://seds.org/messier/m/m031.html. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
- 2000 x 8.5 = 17,200
- Croswell, Ken (2005-11-04). "First direct distance to Andromeda". astronomy.com. http://www.astronomy.com/en/sitecore/content/Home/News-Observing/News/2005/11/First%20direct%20distance%20to%20Andromeda.aspx. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
- BBC Science