Society Lecture – The Andromeda Galaxy Enigma: A new face for an old friend – Andy Stephens

June 1, 2019 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Willingdon Memorial Hall
Church St
Eastbourne BN20 9HT

Title: The Andromeda Galaxy Enigma: A new face for an old friend – Andy Stephens


On the night of 27–28 September 2015, during the total phase of the ‘supermoon’ lunar eclipse, Andy experienced some exceptionally transparent dark skies at his home just outside Cheltenham. Using his 16×70 Fujinon binoculars he was surprised to see the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) displaying a totally unfamiliar countenance: in place of its normal symmetrical aspect, he was now observing a twisted and distorted object which seemed to have an almost three-dimensional appearance. Andy was seeing the Galaxy as never before and was puzzled, as he could recall no similar observations from the historical record. With a strong feeling that corroborative evidence for his strange observation must lie ‘out there’ somewhere, waiting to be discovered, Andy embarked on what ended up as a three-year research project. Gradually the surprising truth unfolded.
This talk tells Andy’s story by reference to over a 1000 years of observation of this, the most wonderful of the great ‘island universes’. We will meet many of the great observers of the past, the work of whom has given us insight to its true character. However, by the end of the talk, Andy will be inviting us all to question whether the descriptions of the visual appearance of M31 in modern guide books are correct.


Andy Stephens – Andy is a retired IT and Internet specialist. He has been a keen amateur astronomer and astronomical historian for over 50 years. During this time he has used a great variety of different instruments, including refractors up to 10″ aperture and reflectors up to 24″; however, he is happiest when sweeping the Milky Way with a simple pair of binoculars. Since his teens he has been collecting books on the history of observational astronomy and has accumulated an extensive reference library to support his various research projects.  He is a past Chairman of the Bristol Astronomical Society and a current member of the British Astronomical Association (BAA), the Society for the History of Astronomy (SHA) and the Webb Society.

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