The Milky Way Galaxy will enliven the clear night sky with millions of stars. The Milky Way is a giant galaxy so you can see it with the naked eye. Just go to a dark secluded place. If you are in the northern hemisphere, look towards the south. Meanwhile, if you are in the southern hemisphere, look up perpendicularly. You can even find other constellations, stars, and galaxies as you survey the sky.
Method 1 of 4: Choosing the Right Night
Step 1. Observe the Milky Way from June to August
These are the months of spring in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. This is the best time to observe the Milky Way because its position is not close to the sun.
You may be able to see part of the Milky Way in early March or late August. However, between November and February, this galaxy will not be seen at all
Step 2. Begin observing the sky two hours after sunset and before dawn
The hours just after sunset and before sunrise are still very bright. Wait at least two hours before you head out stargazing.
You can use an almanac or weather site to find out when the sun rises and sets for the day. Use this information to plan your trip
Step 3. Find a location that is not exposed to light pollution
Light from buildings, roads, and cars can block the view. Look for a secluded place-for example, in the countryside-that is far from towns, housing, or major roads.
- Since the Milky Way appears in the southern hemisphere, head south from the major city where you live. If you do this, the light from the city will not interfere with the view.
- Nature reserves, mountains, deserts, and other uninhabited areas are great places to observe the Milky Way.
- To find dark areas, you can use a light pollution map, like this one:
Step 4. Choose a moonless and cloudless night
You can't see the Milky Way if the moon is too bright or if the clouds are blocking the sky. Before heading out to observe the galaxy, choose a clear night when the moon is new or still crescent.
- Most weather services will tell you how many clouds will appear and at what phase the moon will be.
- Some apps, such as Luna Solaria or Moon Phase Plus, will provide information about the current phase of the moon.
Step 5. Allow your eyes to adapt for 20 minutes
During this time, do not use a flashlight, cell phone, or other light source. Your eyes need time to adjust to the darkness before you can see the stars.
Method 2 of 4: Observing Stars from the Northern Hemisphere
Step 1. Don't go too far north
Above 50° north latitude, it will be difficult to see the Milky Way. Places at this latitude include everything north of Normandy in France, Vancouver in Canada, and Inner Mongolia in China. Head south for the best views.
Step 2. Look south
Use the compass or the app in your phone to show south. If you observe the Milky Way in the summer, the first band will appear from the south. It will look like a white cloud scattered with stars or a dense cloud of fog that divides the sky.
- If you are observing the Milky Way in the spring, turn slightly to the west. If it's autumn, look up a little to the east.
- Remember, the Milky Way will not look like any of the images you may have seen. Cameras are capable of recording more light and color than the human eye.
Step 3. Focus near the horizon to see the center of the galaxy
Consider the densest star clusters. That's the center of the galaxy. If you are farther north, the center of the galaxy may be partially obscured by the horizon. If you are closer to the equator, the center of the galaxy is likely above the horizon.
Step 4. Find the Great Rift (dark band area) by looking for the black part
In the center of the Milky Way, you will see parts of it that are dark. This part can only be seen in the darkest sky. That's the Great Rift. That is a series of thick clouds that cover part of the Milky Way.
Method 3 of 4: Stargazing from the Southern Hemisphere
Step 1. Go to a place with latitude -30°
You will get a better vantage point in the southern part of the southern hemisphere. Places include the North Cape in South Africa, the Coquimbo Region in Chile, and New South Wales in Australia.
You can still see the Milky Way in other places in the Southern Hemisphere, but the areas listed above will provide the widest possible vantage point for observing the Milky Way galaxy
Step 2. Face southwest to see the Milky Way band
The distribution of the Milky Way's bands will begin in the southwest sky and stretch along the horizon to the northeast. You can use a compass to help locate the southwest horizon.
Step 3. Look perpendicularly upwards to observe the center of the galaxy
The center of the Milky Way will be directly above your head. Look up to see it. The center of the galaxy will look like a white, misty cloud consisting of a cluster of stars.
Bring a mat such as a mat so you can observe the Milky Way while lying on your back
Step 4. Search the dark passages to find the Great Rift
The Great Rift will appear more clearly in the southern hemisphere because the Milky Way appears brighter. The Great Rift will look like black streaks splitting between the stars.
Method 4 of 4: Enriching Experience
Step 1. Bring a star map to find the constellations
The constellations seen at that time will depend on latitude and season. Star maps can provide information about what constellations can be seen. Look for a star map created specifically for the place and time of your observation.
- Some of the constellations commonly seen near the Milky Way are Sagittarius, Alpha Centauri, Cygnus, and the Magellanic Clouds.
- You can buy star maps at planetariums, science museums, or online.
- You can also look for apps like Stellarium or SkyGuide to download star maps directly to your phone.
Step 2. Use binoculars or a telescope to get a closer look
Observe the Milky Way with the naked eye first, then aim the lens at it. After that, peer through the telescope's viewfinder to get a closer look at the individual stars and galaxies.
You can use binoculars or any size telescope. With a higher magnification or aperture, you can see more detail, but you can still observe the stars individually at a lower magnification
Step 3. Take long exposure shots using a digital camera
Photos will capture the incredible colors of the galaxy as well as the stars. To take good photos, change the camera setting to long exposure. Use the widest lens you have. For best results, mount the camera on a tripod. Before taking a picture, aim the lens so that the camera captures the sky with the widest angle of view.
- If you can, set the shutter speed based on the size of the lens. For example, 500 divided by the size of the lens diameter. Use the resulting number to set the shutter speed. For example, if your lens is 25mm, then 500:25 = 20. So you should set the shutter speed to 20 seconds.
- For best results, you will most likely have to adjust the contrast level of the photo later.