Astrophotographers often refer to this time of the year, from mid autumn to mid spring, as the “Milky Way Season”! That’s because, during this time of year, we look towards the centre or core of our Milky Way Galaxy. It’s dense with stars and stretches across the dark night sky in country WA. Astrophotographers love it!
The Milky Way is best seen when there’s no moonlight and you’re away from bright city lights. What you’re looking for is a band of cloudy or dusty looking light that stretches 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 June, the Milky Way has risen from the south east and stretches right across the sky to the west. By July, August and September, the core or heart of the Milky Way is high in the southern sky. By October and November, the Milky Way begins to set in the western sky.
When to look: From after sunset on moonless nights
Here are our top picks for early evening times to see the Milky Way:
- From 7pm, between 13th April – 24th April
- From 6:30pm, between 12th May – 23rd May
- From 6pm, between 11th June – 22nd June
- From 6:30pm, between 10th July – 22nd July
- From 7pm, between 8th August – 20th August
- From 7:30pm, between 7th September – 19th September
- From 8pm, between 6th October – 19th October
Which direction to look: South east to south west
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 centre of the Galaxy. 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. At night, we look towards 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 and the summer Milky Way!