Separated by about 14 degrees
(28 Full Moons) in planet Earth's sky,
spiral galaxies M31 ,left, and M33 are both large members of
the Local Group,
along with our own Milky Way galaxy.
telescopic mosaic captures colorful details of spiral structure
in both, while the massive neighboring galaxies seem to be balanced
either side of bright Mirach, beta star in the
But M31, the Andromeda Galaxy,
is really 2.5 million light-years distant and
M33, the Triangulum Galaxy, is also about
3 million light years away.
Mirach, just 200 light-years from the Sun,
lies well within the Milky Way, along with the
clouds of dust drifting through the frame only a few hundred
light-years above the galactic plane.
Although they look far apart,
M31 and M33 are locked in a mutual gravitational embrace.
Radio astronomers have
found indications of
a bridge of neutral hydrogen gas that could connect the two,
evidence of a closer encounter in the past.
Based on measurements, gravitational
predict that the Milky Way, M31, and M33
will all undergo mutual close encounters and potentially
mergers, billions of years
in the future.
Rogelio Bernal Andreo
(Deep Sky Colors)