By all means if you possibly can, step outside the next clear evening and behold the Milky Way Galaxy.

By all means if you possibly can, step outside the next clear evening and behold the Milky Way Galaxy.
   Someone stop me from saying the view is "out of this world." Of course it is. What is amazing is that if you a reasonably dark sky, with only eyes to see you can witness the grand and overlapped spiral arms of this great galaxy we call home, spanning hundreds of thousands of light years (each light year is 5.8 TRILLION miles) as you cast your vision from one side to the other.
   No college degree in astronomy or any degree at all for that matter is needed. No telescope, no binoculars are required. No expensive plane tickets or scheduling a vacation are necessary. Just step out and look up!
    Or you can stay inside and watch TV or surf the Internet. Dare I say, we have plenty of cloudy nights for that if you wish!
   Late August is prime time to see the Milky Way at its best during evening hours. At this time of year, as seen from mid-northern latitudes, the center of the Milky Way Galaxy faces you due south, low to the horizon. This is the widest and brightest area, the brilliant central hub from which the great arms of stars and nebulous gas an dust clouds begin and curve out.
    Our Sun is in the midst of the arms, so from where we live, we see the curving spiral arms overlapped from within, making the Milky Way Band all around the sky.
    Notice how the Milky Way Band rises from the south, stretching at an angle up high and down to the northwest. The Milky Way appears to break up, split right through for a long section. This is an area of darkened nebulosity, where the dust and gas clouds hide the light of background stars.
    To see the Milky Way at its very best, however, you need to travel far south- to the Tropics and below the Equator, where the central hub of the galaxy is seen high up. I will never forget the view I had in 2012 from a mountain top in Haiti while there on a missions trip. There were virtually no lights from the ground to compete. The Milky Way was so bright it actually cast a faint illumination on the deck floor where I was seated.
    That is the pity of it all; light pollution has robbed most of us from seeing the stars as they should be. A sad fact is that most Americans, living in or near cities, have never even seen the Milky Way.
   For them, it may take some travel and effort to truly enjoy the night sky.
  Find a star map for the summer sky in astronomy books in your public library, magazines like Sky & Telescope or Astronomy, or look online. Trace the summer constellations. Low in the south is Sagittarius the Archer, also called the "Teapot" for its striking outline. Amazingly, the billowing Milky Way seems to rise from the Teapot's "spout" like puffy steam!
   If you do have binoculars, scan this region and all along the Milky Way Band. Celestial treasures including star clusters, fuzzy nebulous clouds and a dazzling concentration of stars will be displayed before you.
    Be sure to let your eyes adapt to the darkness to see the most of the night sky!
    New Moon is on August 25.
   Tell me what you see! Email
Keep looking up!