November is a good month to enjoy the sights of and near Andromeda as it passes overhead during autumn evenings. And the most dramatic of them is, of course, the Great Andromeda Galaxy, M31. It is such a well known object that it is easy to pass it by, but is worth a proper look in any kind of telescope. At Magnitude 3.5 or so it will be easy enough to find below the W shape of Cassiopeia, and if you can’t find it with the naked eye then it is definitely a night for the pub instead! The other way to find it is working up from the Beta Andromedae (see map below).
With an 8″ telescope or more you should be able to see dark lanes of dust, and the 2 nearby satellite galaxies – M32 is quite bright and to the south of M31’s core, and M110 which is further away to the north, and more diffuse. It is worth reminding yourself of the photographic images of the 3 of them to help relate what you see visually to those familiar pictures. If your telescope is a 12″, it should also be worth looking at some of the very faint “stars” surrounding M31 – some of them will be its globular clusters.
Another useful thing about M31 is that it provides a easy way to find the third biggest member of our local group of galaxies – M33, the Pinwheel Galaxy. Simply head down from M31 to Beta again, and keep going as far again the other side, and there you are. M33 has a lower surface brightness than M31, and on some nights is easier to see in binoculars than a telescope, but on a good night detail can be seen with an 8″ or bigger telescope.