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The Andromeda Galaxy is the largest and brightest galaxy in the northern hemisphere. It consists of thousand billion stars. Although this galaxy lies quite far from Earth – over 2.5 million light years, it is visible to the naked eye on a clear starry night. It has been the object of inspiration for science-fiction creators for many years, e.g. it is perfectly known by Star Trek and Superman fans.
The Andromeda Galaxy was first spotted about 964 A.D. by the Persian astronomer al-Sufi, he called it “the little cloud” in his “Book of Fixed Stars”. The first hint of the true nature of the Andromeda Galaxy came late in 1923 when Edwin Powell Hubble definitively established it as an extra galactic object. Andromeda is the largest galaxy of the Local Group, which contains the Milky Way. It is also the nearest spiral galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy. It is also known as Messier 31, M31 or NGC 224. In the centre of the Andromeda Galaxy there is a huge supermassive black hole with a mass of 140 million solar masses.
According to scientists the Andromeda Galaxy is approaching the Milky Way at about 300 km per second. Both galaxies are thus expected to collide in about 4.5 billion years. A likely outcome of collision is that the galaxies will merge to form a giant elliptical galaxy. The fate of the Earth and Solar System in the event of collision is currently unknown.