Sternbild Andromeda

 

Andromeda is one of the constellations of antiquity described by Ptolemy and shows up in the northern hemisphere. The special feature of this constellation is M31, the Andromeda Nebula: It is about the size of the Milky Way and visible to the naked eye, it is the nearest spiral galaxy.

How to spot Andromeda

Andromeda is made up of several bright stars that loosely form the shape of an inverted letter A, slightly distorted and turned anticlockwise. It is easily located by finding the W-shaped Cassiopeia constellation above it and the square-shaped Pegasus constellation adjoining it. Other well-known constellations nearby are Pisces and Perseus. Andromeda has three extremely bright stars and is the 19th largest constellation in the sky.

Northern hemisphere - August to September, you will spot it low on the north eastern horizon at around 10pm. In October and November, the constellation is visible in the eastern sky from about 8pm, rising overhead towards midnight. In December, January and February, it will appear overhead from around 6pm to 7pm moving slowly towards the north west before sinking below the horizon by midnight.

Southern hemisphere - October and November, Andromeda becomes can be seen low on the north east horizon at around 10pm. In December the constellation appears low on the north horizon at about 10pm and disappears below the north western horizon by 1am.

Mythology

In Greek mythology, Andromeda was the only daughter of King Cepheus and Cassiopeia. At the same time lived the Nereids, the 50 daughters of the titan Nereus and his wife Doris. Each one of those 50 women was considered the definition of beauty in antiquity. Poseidon took one of them to wife. When Cassiopeia, driven by her vain, called herself and her daughter the most beautiful women in the world, Poseidon was urged to send a sea monster in the form of a whale to devastate the shores of Cepheus' empire. An oracle told Cepheus that he had to sacrifice Andromeda to appease the rage of the Sea God and his wife. So he chained his daughter to a rock that was waiting anxiously for her fate. When the sea monster Cetus approached the virgin, the hero Perseus appeared. He recognized the beauty and innocence of the young woman and saved her from death by destroying the monster. Later, Perseus took Andromeda to wife. To commemorate this story, all those involved were cast as a constellation in the sky.

Some interesting facts

Andromeda has four fascinating features. The first is Almach, a massive star system with an orange giant, 80 times bigger than our sun. The second is Mirach, a red giant 200 light years from Earth. Next is Alpheratz, the brightest star in the constellation, which is also part of the adjoining Pegasus constellation. The most interesting feature is M31, also known as the Andromeda Galaxy, the furthest object man can see with the naked eye. While the stars of the constellation are located only about 1200 light-years from Earth, the distance to the Andromeda Nebula is significantly greater with 2.7 million light years.