The Andromeda Galaxy as seen by Terry Hancock from Michigan (with permission)
Andromeda. Few words immediately bring forth imagery of science fiction, fantasy and real-life astronomy to me like Andromeda does. Andromeda is our heavens, Andromeda is in our history, Andromeda is in our music and literature, Andromeda is in our oceans and Andromeda is in our science fiction and fantasy. I’ll admit I am less knowledgeable about Andromedas than I am about Enterprises (see my 20 Favorite Ships Called Enterprises post), but several Andromedas are also at the root of my geekdom. Recently I decided to take some time and run through the Andromedas that I’m aware of. I’m confident that there are additional Andromedas of relevance out there. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments section below because I would greatly appreciate and enjoy learning about it. In the meantime, please sit back and allow me to take you through my tour of the Andromedas.
There are few bigger entities in the universe than a galaxy, and one of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way is the Andromeda Galaxy. Just like the Milky Way Galaxy the Andromeda Galaxy is also a spiral galaxy in our astrological “local group.” The Andromeda Galaxy is also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224 and in older texts is even called the Great Andromeda Nebula. One very notable fact about The Andromeda Galaxy is that in about 4.5 billion years it will collide with the Milky Way Galaxy. Since 4.5 billion years is roughly the same amount of time we currently date how old the Earth is, this galactic fender bender hardly will occur in our human lifespans even if David Weber’s Honorverse prolong treatment was available. There are some deliberations on whether the Milky Way or Andromeda is bigger. Andromeda seems to take up more volume, but the Milky Way seems to have more mass. Either way the resulting collision of the two galaxies will definitely have the potential to rearrange some galactic furniture. (For other cool Andromeda Galaxy views, check out the YouTube link above this paragraph or check out this NASA WISE Space Telescope photo: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/WISE/multimedia/pia12832-c.html )
Perhaps the best known science fiction ship named Andromeda is from Gene Roddenberry’s imagined Andromeda. The series was originally developed by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and produced by Gene Roddenberry’s widow Majel Roddenberry. Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda ran for a total of five seasons from October 2, 2000 to May 13, 2005. The show is set thousands of years into the future and mainly revolved around the System Commonwealth’s High Guard ship Andromeda Ascendant and the Andromeda’s captain, Dylon Hunt. The Andromeda functioned primarily with the assistance of her artificial intelligence Rommie. Rommie/Andromeda’s official designation is Shining Path to Truth and Knowledge AI model GRA 112, serial number XMC-10-284. In this special case instead of the captain or crew having feelings for the ship, the Andromeda’s artificial intelligence develops feelings towards Captain Hunt. The Andromeda is a Glorious Heritage class heavy cruiser and due to a Buck Rogers style incident at the beginning of the series is the last of her kind. Dylon Hunt, played by the television series Hercules star Kevin Sorbo, assembles a ragtag crew and uses the Andromeda Ascendant to crusade to restore the Commonwealth to the universe. If you are looking for a space based adventure type story and haven’t seen Andromeda yet, I would recommend that you give it a try.
Perhaps the oldest known reference to Andromeda is found in Greek mythology. Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, the king and queen of Ethiopia. For those unfamiliar with the story, Casseopia often boasted that Andromeda was more beautiful than the nymph daughters of the god Nereus. As a punishment for her boasting, Poseidon sent the monster Cetus to ravage the Ethiopian coast. In order to stop Cetus, Cepheus chained Andromeda to a rock as a sacrifice. However, Perseus intervened and defeated Cetus by turning him to stone. Perseus then married Andromeda and they had seven children together. The most common depiction from the story has Andromeda chained naked to a rock on the coastal shore and Pereus saving her which unfortunately is not exactly family friendly so I'll just leave this one to your imagination.
[caption id="attachment_6005" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="The Constellation Andromeda as shown on John and Janet Slivoski's Astronomy website: http://www.slivoski.com/astronomy/androm.htm"][/caption]
What do you do with a famous individual from Greek mythology? You take several bright stars located close to each other and name a constellation in the night sky for the mythological Greek individual of course. When I was in first grade I “wrote” a science report about the constellations. With Dad Shooter’s help I placed those little gold and silver star stickers on sheets of dark blue cardboard in the shape of the major constellations in the night’s sky. I remember quite clearly that this was the first time I learned how to find the north stars by using the stars in the Big Dipper. One of the other constellations I remember depicting was the constellation Andromeda, named directly after the Greek mythological woman. The Andromeda Galaxy is considered part of the Andromeda constellation which is visible year round in the northern hemisphere. After searching through a childhood box my parents gave me I’m convinced the first grade report is gone forever, but what it taught me about the night sky will be with me forever.
Roddenberry’s Andromeda Ascendant might be the best known Andromeda named starship in science fiction, but the first starship named Andromeda I remember was from Starblazers. The Andromeda was the Argo’s version of the Excelsior in the Original Series Star Trek movies. The Andromeda was a far bigger ship than the Argo with massive new armaments and almost total computer automation. To complete the Excelsior comparison, the Andromeda was also ordered by Earth Defense Forces to stop the Argo from leaving on her non-sanctioned mission in season 2. And just in case you are wondering, Starblazers aired on American television in 1979, five years before Star Trek III was released in theaters.
Talking about theaters I thought would mention a movie/book character before Solai goes all Hagrid’s Hut on me. Of course I’m referring to J.K. Rowling’s Andromeda Tonks. In case your Harry Potter knowledge needs a refresher Dromeda as she was known was the mother of Nymphadora Tonks who is one of my favorite members of the Order of Phoenix. Dromeda was born a witch in the Black family, but disowned her family and married a muggle. Any Black that disowned their family ties and is the mother of a beautiful witch to boot is alright in my book.
In the past two hundred or so years the British Navy has named at least seven ships HMS Andromeda. Although no Andromeda is currently gracing Her Majesty’s fleet, these ships have ranged from a 24 gun sailing ships to a more modern type of warship. The last HMS Andromeda was a Leander class frigate. This last British active service Andromeda named vessel was sold to the Indian Navy in 1995 and renamed Krishna.
The British also had a television show named for Andromeda. “A For Andromeda” originally aired on the BBC in 1961 with a sequel series named “The Andromeda Breakthrough” and shorter remake that aired in 2006. As the story unfolds in “A for Andromeda,” in “Contact”-like style a bunch of scientists receive a radio signal from the Andromeda Nebula that contain instructions to build an advanced computer. Once the computer is built the computer gives the scientists instructions to create a living organism named Andromeda. Unfortunately, little material and footage survives from the original 1961 “A For Andromeda.” However the BBC did release a DVD set titled The Andromeda Anthology in 2006 which included surviving footage from the 1961 series as well as the complete Andromeda Breakthrough. The DVD set is currently available via amazon.com.
For all of you E.T.-like botanists out there your field is not without an Andromeda. In the northern hemisphere there is a plant found in bogs with the scientific name Andromeda polifolia. Commonly known as bog rosemary, it contains grayanotoxin which is known to lower blood pressure when ingested. However, this little shrub can also be known to cause respiratory problems, dizziness, vomiting or diarrhea when ingested so beware of gifts in small organic packages.
The last Andromeda known to me is the 1969 techno-thriller novel by Michael Critchton and 1971 SciFi film The Andromeda Strain. The story for this Andromeda centers around a military satellite that returns to Earth with a microbe that rapidly mutates. A special government group called Wildfire is activated and ordered to investigate. The events that follow lead to possible high stakes annihilation. As an interesting side note, the film Andromeda Strain was released to theaters a mere two days after our very own Chuck was born. So for those doing the math at home Chuck is 2 days older than the Andromeda Strain film.
If you know of any other references to Andromeda in SciFi, please let me know. I know there must be others and I’m very interested to hear about them. Do you have a favorite Andromeda? Let me know about it below. And as always you can reach me on Twitter at @ShooterGWC or just leave a comment below.
Until next time…