Back to: Weekend Sky Report
January 24, 2020
The Local Group of galaxies includes over 30 galaxies within about 10 million light years of our own Milky Way galaxy. The three largest galaxies in the local group are: The Andromeda Galaxy with about a trillion stars… our own Milky Way with anywhere from a hundred to 400 billion stars… and this weekend’s target… the Triangulum Galaxy—weighing in at around 40 billion stars.
The Triangulum Galaxy gets its name from the constellation where it’s found. It’s a small constellation and, as the name suggests… it’s a triangle. But it’s a very acute triangle… it’s long and narrow. Tonight around 8pm it will be almost straight up in the sky. Face the west, then look straight up in the air, then down slightly. Look for the star at the point of Triangulum, then find Mirach—the bright orange star in the center of the constellation Andromeda. Draw a line between those two. Scan toward the center and just below that line and you should find the Triangulum Galaxy.
Now, as I said before, it’s one of the most distant objects you can see with the naked eye, but suburban observers like myself don’t have a prayer of seeing it without help. It’s only visible to the naked eye under VERY clear, VERY dark skies. So grab some binoculars or a telescope. When you find it, it’ll look kind of like a dim, fuzzy blob. But if you’ve got a good telescope, you may notice that it kind of looks like a pinwheel… but don’t confuse it with Messier 101, also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy… we’ll save that one for another time.