Check out our nearest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy

Earl Baumgardner
Earl Baumgardner snapped this image of the northeast sky near Montgomery, Ala.

With the cool fall nights upon us, I thought I would post something a little different. My interest in photography began when I was young and started taking pictures of stars. Back then of course I used film and an analog SLR. The process was trial and error and you never knew what you got until the film was developed days later. Cool or cold nights were always much clearer for taking images so the first cool nights of fall always get me outside looking at the stars.

Digital cameras, however, have sped up the process and made astrophotography within the reach of just about anyone with a camera. The best part … instant results!

So that being said, I went out Oct. 9 and shot a quick image of the northeast sky. With just a 10 second exposure you can really capture a lot. Did you know that you can actually see our nearest neighboring galaxy? Yes, the Andromeda galaxy appears as a small haze to the naked eye and with binoculars can easily be seen. So with the image I took tonight I am going to show you how to find the Andromeda galaxy.

First, locate Cassiopeia in the northeastern sky (during the early fall). It looks like a sideways W. The top three stars will point toward the Andromeda galaxy. Just scan to the right (binoculars will help) and you will see a fuzzy smudge in the sky. That’s it! Yes, another galaxy, larger than ours, 2.5 million light years away and containing more than 1 trillion stars.

Interestingly enough astronomers have predicted that our galaxy, the Milky Way, is on a collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy. Don’t worry though, they estimate the collision will occur more than four billion years from now.

NOTE: The haze behind Cassiopeia is our galaxy, the Milky Way. We are inside it looking out. The line of light just above the tree is an airplane passing through the picture.

Destin's Earl Baumgardner is a documentary photographer and videographer. He can be reached at