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M31 photographed in red light

Date created: 1978-08-28

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The Andromeda galaxy, M31, is over two million light years away. Despite this enormous distance it is visible to the unaided eye and was first noted by the Persian astronomer Al Sufi in about 905 AD. It is now known to be the nearest spiral system to our own galaxy, the Milky Way, knowledge gleaned from photographic plates in the 1920s. This image, taken in red light, was made in SII (red light) 1978 on the (then) Palomar Schmidt telescope and shows the two bright companions to M31. These are elliptical galaxies, fuzzy shapes that are mostly devoid of the gas, dust and bright arcs of young stars that makes spirals so distinctive.

Credit: David Malin

© Caltech