How far would I have to travel into space before I could "see" the Andromeda galavy?

I seem to recall reading that the Andromeda galaxy would be an impressive sight in our nighttime sky (like three times our moon’s diameter) if only we could see it.

How far from earth would we have to travel before our vision could grasp it? Is it even possible for our naked eyes to take in?

Ah shit, don’t drink wine & post…galaxy, dumbass, galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy’s central area (not just the core but the ‘heafvily populated’ area) is quite visible to the naked eye near the Great Square (Pegasus/Andromeda), looking like a “fuzzy star”, under good viewing conditions (no haze, no or minimal ambient light nearby). The actual full extent of the galaxy is not, owing to the limitations on the light-gathering ability of the unaided human eye, but is clear with a small telescope. field glasses, or even a long-exposure photograph. (The far-flung arms are a bit too dim for naked-eye visibility at our distance.) There was a remarkable picture on one of the astronomy sites showing it compared to the full moon; if it were bright enough that we could see the whole thing with the naked eye, it would be an elliptical ‘cloud of stars’ with minor axis the apparent width of the sun or moon and major axis about three times the length.

As already stated, it is visible to the unaided eye already. It is easily obscured by city lights, so the furthest you should travel is to a dark spot in the countryside.

Unfortunately, it won’t get any brighter if you travel closer to it, just bigger. If you went half way (about a million light years) it would look twice as big (four times the area) and just as dim. Your eyes would be collecting four times as much light, but spread out over four times as much area on your retina. If you got closer, you’d start to resolve the individual stars, which would get brighter, since they would appear like point sources.

Actually, you can see Andromeda from Earth–barely. It takes ideal night time viewing conditions and averted vision to see it as a faint smudge against the night sky. And I might be wrong about this, someone else might set me straight, but I think even viewing it through a powerful telescope wouldn’t get you a very good look because it’s too dim from here. The glorious images we see are relatively long time exposures.

ETA: Ninja’d x 2


That’s the one.

Yep. Beautiful image!

The outer portions of galaxies are very faint to the naked eye. The beautiful shots of galaxies you see use a combination of long exposures and sensitive sensors. (Plus a lot of processing to balance things out.)

To get a really good idea: The easiest galaxy to spot in the night sky is our own. It is a very faint band that can only be seen under clear conditions away from city lights. And we are in the middle of an outer band!

If you are so close to the Andromeda Galaxy so that it takes up half the sky, it’s still going to be very, very faint away from the central core. In fact, the glare from the central core at that distance is going to start hurting the view of the outer part, human vision-wise.

(We can’t see our own central core due to looking edgewise thru a lot of dust.)

Like the Solar system is really a middling star and some minor cruft, a galaxy is a central core and some insignificant fuzz.

I was going to give the smart-ass answer of “0 miles.” Of course I live 25 miles north of San Diego and if the car dealerships 12 miles north of me have turned their lot lights off I can see it from a dark backyard. And I’m glad that** Esox** mentioned the averted gaze. Looking just to one side or the other of a dim object allows a viewer to see them much better.

I can’t resist a visibility joke here:
Air Traffic Control to pilot flying in clear, daytime conditions: “Can you say visibility at your altitude?”
Pilot: “Uh, ATC, visibility looks to be 93 million miles.”

Thanks, I’d never thought that through, so I hadn’t realised that.

Until I saw that image a while back, I had no idea it was that close (and getting closer all the time).

I’ve always heard impressive things about Andromeda, and of course, any photos you see are spectacular.

Hubster is an amateur astronomer, so when he told me an upcoming star party would include viewing of the Andromeda galaxy, I was eager to go along.

So, it takes forever to get the scope set up, get it aimed, get it focused, and I was FREEZING. (I don’t have the same sense of adventure he does, or his stargazing buddies.) I was finally given the word: We have it now!

So, I skip over to the telescope, get my eyeball to the eyepiece, and excitedly peer inside.

It was a smudge. Looked like someone dipped a thumb in white paint and made a smear on a piece of black construction paper.

“WHAT IS THIS? I wanna see Andromeda!”

“That IS Andromeda.”

“Where are the arms? Where are the swirls?”

“You need special filters to see that.”

I locked myself in the van and went to sleep.

Meant to add, the best place to view Andromeda, or any other galaxy, would be from just outside it. The view would be a lot more spectacular than our view of the milky way, as dust lanes inside the galaxy block much of the light.

(The milky way is an amazing sight from a truly dark-sky site, but bright it isn’t.)

VOW, you really can see the details without filters, if you have a sufficiently big-ass scope. I saw it once through a 20 incher, and the dust lanes were so clear I felt like I had to wipe my eyes.

I’ve seen Jupiter and Saturn through a 10 inch telescope. They were small in the eyepiece, but I could see the rings clearly, and cloud banding. Jupiter’s 4 major moons were bright pinpricks strung out in a line. I found it very interesting, they are whole other planets after all. Seeing it myself helped put it into context.

Many amateur astronomers use digital cameras these days. It’s possible to take spectacular images with fairly modest equipment. This is an amateur picture of the Orion nebula. I’ve seen a far higher quality one taken with a standard DLSR attached to a 6 inch refractor, with about an hour of exposure time.

No, it’s trivially easy to see from any reasonably dark sky. And my telescope shows it quite well. And it’s not a very big scope.

We can see part of the core through a hole in the dust. It’s called the Sagittarius Star Clouds.

To Chronos and Alka-Seltzer:

When Hubster participated in star parties with his other stargazing buddies, he would haul his 10 inch reflector out to the High Desert in SCal, and they would set everything up and oooh and ahhh.

He would be able to see Jupiter and Saturn (and rings) just dandy with the 10-inch.

He sold the 10-inch and bought a 14-inch in time to see the closest Mars approach a couple of years ago. HE was thrilled out of his gourd. He tried to show me, with separate views through his dozens of filters, but I just couldn’t work up the enthusiasm.

Part of the reason we moved to our piece of Heaven out in the middle of Nowhere (NE AZ) is because it is supposed to have the cleanest atmosphere in the Continental US. The 14-inch telescope is sitting in a box, waiting for him to construct his observatory. That will happen when we get enough money to INVEST in his observatory, LOL.

He’s also got a solar telescope. The family joke is once the observatory is set up, Hubster will be walking around like Popeye.

I remember reading somewhere that Stephen Hawking was thoroughly unimpressed with his first look through a telescope and didn’t bother with it again, so you could be in good company.