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Astronomical Observatory: Cool Images

Astr110 Photography Projects, Fall 2005

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M32, Emily MacLeod and Stacy Ladenburger


M32 (a shortened name for Messier Object 32) is a member of the Local Group of galaxies, which is where our own Milky Way Galaxy is located. It is the companion of M31, the Great Andromeda Galaxy. Although M32 is much smaller than M31, it is very bright. In fact, its nucleus has properties comparable to those of the nucleus of M31.

M32 is a dwarf elliptical galaxy. It is compact and has high surface brightness, but contains no globular clusters. As an elliptical galaxy, M32 has no spiral arms or disk, but has what looks like the bulge and halo of a spiral galaxy. M32 is 22 arcminutes south of M31’s center, and is approximately 3 billion solar masses. M32 is 2.9 million light-years away from the Milky Way Galaxy, and its angular size is approximately 2.5 arcminutes. Using this information, we find that M32’s linear size is about 2000 light-years. There is not a large amount of dust or cool gas in this galaxy. Dwarf elliptical galaxies are often located in close proximity of large spiral galaxies. M32 is no exception, being found near M31.

M32 was discovered in 1749 by Guillaume-Joseph-Hyacinthe-Jean-Baptiste Le Gentil de la Galaziere. In 1944, it was resolved into stars by Walter Baade. He was using the 100-inch Hooker telescope on Mt. Wilson. He realized that the stars of this galaxy, along with those of M110, were mainly older stars. They are about as bright as M31, which proves that they are near this large galaxy.

Scientists believe M32 was once much larger, but has lost many stars to the Great Andromeda Galaxy over the years. This makes sense because M32 is very old, and since M31 is more massive, it has a greater gravitational pull on stars, even those in M32. There is also indication that the two galaxies had at least one close encounter in the past, as evidenced by disturbances in M31’s spiral pattern. This theory is also supported by the fact that there are outlying stars in only one hemisphere of M32 – the hemisphere facing away from M31.

M32 is clearly seen in the center of this photograph. In the upper right-hand corner of the picture, haze from the outer edge of the Great Andromeda Galaxy is visible. The reddish edge of M32 can be attributed to M32’s age. An older galaxy has older stars, which, due to their age, have taken on a reddish color. This galaxy is a truly beautiful example of God’s craftsmanship. As it states in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

"The Messier Catalog"
Bennett, Jeffrey. The Cosmic Perspective. New York: Addison Wesley, 2004.

Right Ascension (J2000) 00:42:41.8
Declination (J2000) +40:51:55
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 60 seconds in CR, 300 seconds in BV
Date observed

November 5, 2005 (BV)
November 8, 2005 (C)
November 21, 2005 (R)




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