A wide-angle optical view of M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy), the nearest large galaxy to ours, a little over 2 million light years away (Image Credit Bill Schoening, Vanessa Harvey/REU program/AURA/NSF/NOAO)
. M31 is very similar to our own galaxy, but a little larger and more massive. Because of its large size and relatively close distance, the galaxy is easily visible as a faint fuzz-ball without optical aid in a dark sky; but in city lights, is only a faint smudge even in a large telescope. The actual size of the galaxy spans several degrees, but is only visible with long exposures in dark skies. The fuzzy elliptical balls near M31 (M32 below, and NGC205 above) are dwarf elliptical galaxies, which are companions or satellites of M31.