Drifting through the cosmos a mere two and a half million light-years distant, the Andromeda Galaxy is the most voluminous of the galaxies in the Local Group, which includes our own Milky Way galaxy. Visible
to the unaided eye in a dark location, the central core can be seen as a tiny smudge. In a moderate telescope, M31 can be seen with its two largest satellite galaxies; M32 and M110.
Located in its namesake constellation, Andromeda contains roughly a trillion stars not including the 14 known satellite galaxies gravitationally bound to it.
Visible in this photograph are the dusty lanes of stellar debris visible as the dark bands. The remnants of stellar deaths, this material will be recycled into new stars and planets as gravitational forces compress the matter within the chaotic environment.
Also visible is the bright central core. Inhabiting the center of M31 is a super-massive black hole responsible for the increase in the density of stars, interstellar gasses, and dust. In this region, temperatures soar and cause the dust and gas to glow in visible wavelengths obscuring the innermost region.
M31 and our own Milky Way Galaxy are on a collision course. Expected to collide in roughly four and a half billion years, it should certainly provide a spectacular show for anyone around to witness its approach.