With the bright Moon gone from our evening sky later this week (it will be rising after midnight), now is the best time to enjoy viewing the summer Milky Way.
Never visible from large cities with their lights, smoke, and haze, it can still be readily viewed from distant suburbs and rural locations. Before the invention of the telescope, the true nature of the Milky Way Galaxy (gala is Greek for milk) was a mystery.
Binoculars and telescopes reveal that the galaxy consists of dense clouds of individual stars. For observers in the Northern Hemisphere, the brightest part of the Milky Way is in the constellation Sagittarius, near the star El Nasl. Astronomers believe that this region marks the “hub” or central condensation of our own galaxy. The Sagittarius Star Cloud, about 30,000 light years distant, seems to be the nucleus, with the Sun and all the outer stars of the outer stars of the galaxy turning at the rate of 155 miles per second, and apparently requiring 200 million of our Earthly years to make one complete revolution, or one “cosmic year.”
How To View It
The summer months — June through August — are the best times to view the Milky Way because it will be up most of the night. Get to a dark location, away from light pollution, and wait a good 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. Then, look towards the south.