Searching the Sky: The Andromeda Galaxy

David Baumgartner writes about another galaxy two million light years away from Earth.

This article was contributed by David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.

The princess Andromeda seems to have become chained to the horse, Pegasus.  She is a line of three stars, about as bright as the ones in the square of Pegasus. In fact one of them is the upper left corner star of the square. The ancient people thought of it as belonging to both constellations. It has now been decided that it belongs to Andromeda, not Pegasus, which rather spoils the square (I have no idea who makes these important decisions).

Go from this corner star along the line of Andromeda, past a dimmer star, to the middle star in Andromeda’s line. This star has the name Mirak. You are now looking at the “zenith” or part of the sky directly overhead; you will have to be lying on your back. Turn right at Mirak. Your eye is moving along a shorter and more crooked line of fainter stars. The third of these little stars is fuzzy, if you look careful. It is not a star at all. It is the Great Galaxy in Andromeda.

Everything else you can see in the sky is inside our own Milky Way Galaxy. Only this fuzzy galaxy is outside. It is another galaxy, consisting of billions of stars. It is the most distant thing you will ever see with your naked eyes: two million light years away. So that faint light you see coming from that galaxy left that area more than two million years ago traveling at a speed of 184,000 miles per second. Just stop and think about that for a while. 

Make sure you get out in your back yard on the night of the 17th, and morning of the 18th, for the viewing of the Leonid meteor showers. We could have an hourly rate of as high as 200, but most likely in the 10s and 30s per hour. Back a few years ago I witnessed this same shower and it was one of the most spectacular heavenly sights that I have ever seen. We were having three and four at a time, what a sight. Each year it shows up a little different, but you have to be out there just in case it is the best one ever.

I just had a disagreement with someone who was asking me what that bright object was in the early morning, I said it was Venus.  My friend said, ‘oh no, it is not Venus; it is something else, out there every morning.’ He seemed to think it was some sort of an alien type event. So whatever you think it is, it will be there every morning through the end of the year.

Hoping I don’t disagree with someone else, I’d like to mention that the bright object you see in the western skies just after sunset is the planet Jupiter. I don’t know of any alien events that are happening in that area around that time, but I could be wrong. Clear skies.

Things to watch out for this month:

Nov. 15: New Moon

Nov. 17: Leonid meteor shower peaks

Nov. 19: Moon passes 2 degrees south of Jupiter

Nov. 19: Moon passes 3 degrees south of Saturn

Nov. 21: First Quarter Moon

Nov. 23: Moon passes 5 degrees south of Neptune

Nov. 25: Moon passes 5 south of Mars

Nov. 26: Moon is at apogee (252,211 miles from Earth)

Nov. 27: Moon passes 3 degrees south of Uranus

Nov. 30: Full Moon


David Baumgartner

I am a local fella. Local schools from Fremont, Sacred Heart, Santa Anita, Hollister High, to San Benito Jr. College (Now Gavilan). Then joined the US Air Force where I specialized in Airborne Radar. Married my high school sweetheart JoAnne., shortly after three children arrived; Cindi, Michael, and Lisa. Somehow we ended up with nine Grandchildren.  Went on to San Luis Obispo, Questa, Colleges, and on to Univ. of New Mexico. Came back to Hollister. Opened up Three Pet Stores; Dave's Aquarium Pets & Supplies in SLO, Watsonville, and Hollister. The family spent two and a half years running a ranch up in Oregon. Made our way back to Hollister.  Got my Real Estate License in 1982, opened my own office in 93'. In the mean time raised Swans and revitalized my old hobby of Astronomy.  In 2001 I was named Chamber of Commence Man of the Year. I think I was the only one nominated. I don't care, I'm taking it. In December of 2018 I retired. Not sure if I was forced out or not. None the less, I am retired and I think it was time. Now the last thing I have to do is buy a coffin. I hear COSCO sells them now. But the only drawback is; you have to buy them in lots of six.  I guess I could buy them for the whole family. Not that funny, but thrifty.