This is easily my most successful picture to date. This is a picture of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). It is the closest spiral galaxy to ours and is moving towards us at a breathtaking 110 kilometers per second.
Andromeda is a relativity active galaxy in terms of star formation, as it eats any galaxy that comes near it. Andromeda has an estimated 1 trillion stars, over double the Milky Way’s 200-400 billion stars. It is estimated that m31 gets its size from its multitudes of collisions with other galaxies, each one adding billions of stars to the object.
The distinct blue and yellow/orange hues of Andromeda come from two separate causes. The first is the age of the stars in the galaxy. Imagine for a second M31 as a young small ball of stars drifting through the universe as it slowly spins. Over time this ball of stars collides with more and more other galaxies, taking the stars from these galaxies, add adding them as another shell on the outside. Over time, the spin of the galaxy flattens it out into the spiral shape we see here. The inner part of the galaxy, or the core, is seen here in yellow, red, and orange, the colors of older stars. These are the stars that have been with the galaxy for the longest, and thus are closer to the center. The newer stars that the galaxy picked up are blue, the color of younger stars. These stars are farther out, giving the galaxy the blue glow seen in the photo.
Don’t believe me that M31 eats galaxies? Look no further than this blog post for proof! In the bottom center of the image is the galaxy M110, a small elliptical galaxy. Visible in the top left of the elliptical galaxy is a faint blue bridge, connecting it to M31. These are young blue stars streaming away from M110 into the much more massive M31 as it passes by on its way to the milky way, which will likely suffer a similar fate. The smaller galaxy in the upper left of the picture is M32, another interacting elliptical galaxy. A faint ring can be seen inside it. This is likely heavier material that has, over time, spread out into a ring around the galaxies core. Much like Saturn’s rings, although on a much more massive scale.
Also visible in this picture are about 400 globular clusters. These are clumps of thousands of stars that orbit large galaxies like Andromeda and the Milkyway. The Milkyway has about 150 of these star cities orbiting it. The two most famous being the Hercules cluster (m13) and Omega Centauri. See if you can find all 400 (you’ll need a map!)
I took this image at The Golden State Star Party (GSSP). GSSP is one of the most light pollution free sites in California, and thus makes for an excellent place to do imaging.
Telescope: Vixen Ed80sf (600mfl)
Mount: Orion sirius
Camera: Nikon d5300
Guide scope: ST80
Guide Camera: SSAG
18x420s Iso 800.
Darks and bias only.
Stacked in DSS, processed in PS CS2 and Lightroom 5