What’s the Closest Galaxy to Us

Here in the Milky Way Galaxy, we take up our fair share of the space in the Universe. But, what’s the closest galaxy to us here in the Milky Way?

What’s the Closest Galaxy to Us?

Our next door neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy!

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is a spiral galaxy and the most massive galaxy in our Local Group of galaxies. Our Local Group of galaxies is made up of roughly 46 galaxies, most of which are not as large or even close to the size as the Andromeda Galaxy, making it the biggest, baddest and most awesomest galaxy in our Local Group.

For any of you reading this in the Milky Way, this is comforting; like knowing your neighbor can beat up anyone in your neighborhood. Most Astronomers agree that the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are best-friend-galaxies1.

The Andromeda Galaxy is pretty close, by measurements relative to the scale of the Universe. It’s only 780 kiloparsecs away from the Milky Way Galaxy.

If you were traveling through space at light speed, which is only 186,000 miles per second or roughly 670,616,629 miles per hour, it would take you roughly 2.5 million (light) years, traveling at the speed of light to reach the Andromeda Galaxy from the Milky Way Galaxy.

What Does the Andromeda Galaxy Look Like in Ultraviolet?



Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


During 2006 when the Spitzer Space Telescope was taking photographs and observing the The Andromeda Galaxy, it calculated that its estimated to have roughly 1 trillion stars!

That’s amazing, especially if you consider the Milky Way Galaxy only contains between 200 and 400 billion stars.

What’s Your Crystal Ball Show about the Future of the Andromeda Galaxy?

That’s a good question and it’s not good. You better sit down for this one. OK, ready? Our crystal ball shows… the Andromeda and the Milky Way galaxies are going to collide. Told you it wasn’t good.

The Andromeda Galaxy is moving towards the Milky Way Galaxy at a dangerous speed of… 68 miles per second, or 4,080 miles per hour. AHHH!!!!

It not as catastrophic as you might think and it’s safe to say we’ve got some time to prepare. We travel faster in our cars on the freeway than the speed these two galaxies are traveling towards one another.

Bad News:

There’s going to be a massive ton of destruction on a scale we can’t even imagine.

Good News:

You’re likely not going to be alive to experience this. The collision is on course to take place in roughly 3.75 billion years.

Cool News:

The Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies, after they collide, will likely merge to form a giant Elliptical galaxy or maybe even a Large Disk galaxy. Tough to say, but we’ll keep you posted.

Here’s a picture of two galaxies in mid-course of a collision:



Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center


When Was the Andromeda Galaxy First Observed?

A long time ago in a galaxy not too far, far away….

OK, the first observation we know about was in the Milky Way Galaxy, on Planet Earth, a Persian Astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi first recorded the Andromeda Galaxy as a “small cloud” of stars, using the naked eye for viewing. Pretty incredible he didn’t have any astronomical tools being used, just his eye balls.

In the year 1612, German Astronomer Simon Marius first used a telescope to observe the Andromeda Galaxy and describe it.

Since the first observed nova within the Andromeda Galaxy in 1917, there have been 11 more recorded.

What Does the Andromeda Galaxy Look Like in Infrared?



Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center


How Old is the Andromeda Galaxy?

It’s older than your Grandma. Boom!

The Andromeda Galaxy was formed roughly 10 billion years ago. One of the reasons it’s the big dog in our Local Group is because it formed out of the collision of two smaller protogalaxies.

How Long Would it Take to Travel to the Andromeda Galaxy on the Space Shuttle?

The distance between the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way Galaxy is a long, long, long, long (insert like a couple trillion more longs), long ways away.

The Andromeda Galaxy is approximately 2.5 million light years from the Milky Way Galaxy. A Light Year is approximately 6 trillion miles, so in total the Andromeda Galaxy is approximately 15 trillion miles away from the Milky Way Galaxy.

If you were to leave the Milky Way Galaxy traveling to the Andromeda Galaxy on the Space Shuttle, traveling at it’s approximate speed of 28,000 miles per hour, you’d cover 672,200 miles per (Earth) day and only 245,280,000 miles per (Earth) year.

At this rate, it would take you approximately 61,155 (Earth) years to travel to the Andromeda Galaxy from the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Here’s a gorgeous picture of the Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy seen from Earth.



Photo by Jason Jenkins

Here’s a picture of a very dense and active part of the Andromeda Galaxy:



Photo by Stuart Rankin


Hopefully next time one of your friends asks you what’s the closest galaxy to us you’ll know; it’s our neighbor the Andromeda Galaxy and it’s pretty awesome.


Featured Image by Adam Evans,
1There is no proof whatsoever of this, but seems like it should be true 🙂

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