Astrophotographers often refer to this time of the year, from mid autumn to mid spring, as the “Milky Way Season”! It’s because, at this time of year, we look towards the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy. It’s dense with stars and stretches across the dark night sky in country Western Australia. It’s the best time to see it with the naked eye and you won’t be disappointed!
If you want to experience seeing the Milky Way, try at a time when there’s no moonlight and you’re away from bright city lights. What you’re looking for is a band of cloudy-looking light stretching in an arc from the south east to the south west. It looks like a cloud, but it’s actually billions of stars that make up the Milky Way Galaxy, our home in the Universe.
In early evenings in April, the Milky Way is rising from the south east. By July and August, the band of the Milky Way stretches even further from the east towards the west. By September and October, it will be right across the night sky.
When to look: From 7.30pm, 10th to 23rd June
Which direction to look: South east
For telescopes and binoculars
The Milky Way is an amazing place to point binoculars. As your eyes travel across the stars, you’ll find all things amazing and beautiful. It’s an awe-inspiring sight and WA is one of the last places on Earth to see the Milky Way in all its glory.
The Milky Way is classified as a spiral galaxy with a central bulge and thin arms stretching over 100,000 light years. Imagine two fried eggs stuck back to back! The centre of our galaxy (the yolks of the eggs) is dense with stars, dust and gas.
When you see that arc of milky-looking light in the southern sky, you are looking through the plane of our galaxy. Imagine you’re sitting near the edge of the fried egg and you’re looking towards the egg yolks. The outer spiral arms (the whites of the eggs) of the Milky Way Galaxy are thinner and contain fewer objects.
From autumn until spring, the Earth sits between the centre of the Milky Way and the Sun. At night, the sky is packed full of stars because we’re looking towards the centre of the galaxy.
By the time the Southern Hemisphere summer comes around, Earth is on the other side of the Sun, between it and the edge of the Milky Way. There are less stars, dust and gas towards the edge of the Galaxy but it’s terrific to lie under warm evenings and see the summer constellations!