Nebulas viewable from Neckers

By Branda Mitchell

On any given night, there are many planets and stars to see in the sky, however observers may soon be able to see an entirely different galaxy.

“It could be now or it could be in a few months, but Andromeda is coming up,” Lecturer of physics April Hendley said of a spiral galaxy located about 2.5 million light years away. “It’s the nearest big galaxy to us.”

Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away from the Milky Way, but they are predicted to collide in four billion years due to the mutual gravitational pull, according to NASA.


The Department of Physics will host an astronomy viewing at 10:30 p.m. Sunday at the Neckers Observation Deck.

Hendley said the moon might determine if spectators can see certain extraterrestrial bodies such as the Ring Nebula.

The Hubble Space Telescope showed the true shape and colors of the Ring Nebula in May 2013, which was previously believed to be different from what it found.

“The Ring Nebula looks like a tiny greyish donut in the sky,” Hendley said. “Through a telescope it appears as a grey circle. The pictures we’ve seen where it’s colorful is from cameras where the shutter is open gathering light over a period of time. When we look through our eyes, we don’t have enough time to get the color information.”

Lecturer Hendley described the behavior of Ring Nebula as indicative of what will eventually happen to our Sun in billions of years.

“It is pretty much how a star about the size of our sun ends its life,” Hendley said.

Saturn and Mars are also anticipated to be visible at Sunday’s observation.


Saturn, the fifth brightest object in our solar system, is the most distant planet that can be seen with the naked eye. The planet can be distinguished by its pale yellow color, or by its rings when looking through a telescope. Mars, known for being ‘The Red Planet’ can be recognized by distinct coloration caused from the presence of rust on the surface.

Two more observations are scheduled for the summer on Aug. 10, when the moon is closest to Earth, and Aug. 17.

Branda Mitchell can be reached at [email protected]