The Milky Way can fill a dark summer sky with thousands of stars. It is so big that you can see it with the naked eye. Just go to a dark and isolated place. If you are in the northern hemisphere, look south. However, if you are in the southern hemisphere, look up over your head. You can even find other constellations, stars, and galaxies as you look at the stars.
Method 1 of 4: Choose a night
Step 1. Look for the Milky Way between June and August
It will be summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. These months are the best to see the Milky Way because it is not that close to the sun.
You may be able to see parts of the Milky Way from early March to late August. Between November and February, however, it is not visible
Step 2. Begin stargazing two hours after sunset and two hours before sunrise
The hours just after sunset and before sunrise are still very bright. Wait at least two hours after the sun has set before heading out to stargazing.
You can use a weather almanac or website to find out when sunset and sunrise will occur on any particular day. Use it to plan the trip
Step 3. Find a place that does not have light pollution
Light from buildings, streets, and cars can block your view. Try to find a rural location that is far from cities, houses, or main roads.
- Since the Milky Way appears in the southern sky, you must travel south of any major city. If you do, the light from the city will not interfere with your view of the Milky Way.
- Nature reserves, mountains, deserts, and other unpopulated areas are ideal places to view the Milky Way.
- To find the dark areas, you can use a light pollution map, like this one:
Step 4. Choose a moonless and cloudless night
You may not be able to see the Milky Way if the moon is too bright or if clouds are blocking the sky. Before going out to see the Milky Way, choose a clear night with a new moon or a crescent moon.
- Most weather services will report how many clouds there will be and what phase the moon is in.
- Various apps, like Luna Solaria or Moon Phase Plus, will tell you what phase the moon is in.
Step 5. Let your vision adjust for 20 minutes
During this time, don't use a flashlight, phone, or other light source. The eyes need time to adjust to the dark before you can see the stars.
Method 2 of 4: Observe in the Northern Hemisphere
Step 1. Avoid going too far north
It will be difficult to see the Milky Way above 50 ° north latitude. This latitude includes anywhere north of Normandy, France; Vancouver, Canada and Inner Mongolia, in China. Travel south for the best view.
Step 2. Look south. Use a compass or an app on your phone to point south. If you are going to see the Milky Way in the summer, you should see the first bands that are born from the south. It will look like a white cloud of stars or a dense, hazy cluster in the sky.
- If you are going to see the Milky Way in spring, turn slightly to the west. If it's fall, look a little east.
- Keep in mind that the Milky Way will not look like any image you've ever seen. Cameras can capture more light and colors than the human eye.
Step 3. Focus near the horizon to see the core of the galaxy
Look for the densest cluster of stars, this will be the core. If you are too far north, the core may be partially covered by the horizon. If you are closer to the equator, it may be above the horizon.
Step 4. Pick the Big Rift by looking for dark spots
At the core of the Milky Way, you may see some dark spots. These can only be visible in the darkest skies. It is called the Great Rift. It is a series of thick clouds that cover part of the Milky Way.
Method 3 of 4: Observe in the Southern Hemisphere
Step 1. Visit an area around -30 ° latitude
You will have a better view of the Milky Way in the southern parts of the southern hemisphere. It includes places like the North Cape in South Africa, the Coquimbo region in Chile, and New South Wales in Australia.
You can also see the Milky Way in other parts of the southern hemisphere, but these places will give you the largest view of the galaxy
Step 2. Look southwest to see the bands
The bands of the Milky Way will begin in the southwestern sky and move across the horizon to the northeast. You can use a compass to help you find the southwest horizon.
Step 3. Look up to see the core
The center of the Milky Way will be right at head level. Tilt it to see it. It will look like a hazy white cloud of stars.
You can take a blanket with you so you can lie back and gaze at the Milky Way
Step 4. Search dark spaces to find the Great Rift
The Great Rift is most evident in the southern hemisphere, as the Milky Way is brighter. It will look like dark stripes cutting through the stars.
Method 4 of 4: Improve the experience
Step 1. Take a star chart to find the constellations
The constellations you can see will depend on the latitude and the season of the year. A star chart can tell you what you can find. Find one that is designed for the location and time of year.
- Some of the common constellations found near the Milky Way include Sagittarius, Alpha Centauri, the Swan, and the Magellanic Clouds.
- You can buy a star chart at a planetarium, at a science museum, or online.
- You can also download apps like Stellarium or SkyGuide, which will automatically install a star chart on your phone.
Step 2. Use binoculars or a telescope to get a closer look
Find the Milky Way with the naked eye and point the lens at it. Then look through the viewfinder to get a closer look at individual stars and galaxies.
Any size of binoculars or telescope will work. With a higher magnification or aperture, you will be able to see more details, but you will still be able to see individual stars with a low magnification
Step 3. Take a long exposure photograph with a digital camera.
A photograph will capture the magnificent colors and stars of the galaxy. To get a good image, change the camera settings to a long exposure. Fit the widest lens you have. For best results, place the camera on a tripod. Aim the lens so that you have the widest possible view of the sky before taking the picture.
- If you can, adjust the shutter speed according to the size of the lens. Divide 500 by the diameter of the lens. Use the result to adjust the shutter speed. For example, if the lens is 25mm, you should set the shutter speed to 20 seconds.
- You may need to adjust the contrast later to achieve the best results.