Late-autumn through to early-spring is the best time of year for observing the Milky Way in the southern hemisphere. Not to mention, the southern hemisphere also gets better views of the Milky Way due to the axial tilt of the Earth. Across dark winter nights, the Milky Way can be seen to stretch overhead from horizon to horizon!
When is the best time to see the Milky Way?
The Milky Way appears to us as a faint cloud of stars stretching up and away from the horizon. Naturally, the best time to view this beautiful structure is when the sky is as dark as possible, which means waiting for the Moon to be it its ‘new’ phase.
For a period of a little over a week, with the new Moon at the centre, the skies are dark enough to make the most of the Milky Way. Here are our picks for the best times to view the Milky Way in 2023:
· 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
How do I see the Milky Way?
To make the most of the dark skies that surround the new Moon, there a few simple extra steps you can take.
The first step is to know where to look and what to look for. In the Southern Hemisphere the Milky Way is seen mostly in the southern half of the night sky. Keep an eye out for the light grey cloudy structure criss-crossed with dark shadows that make up the arms of the Galaxy.
Secondly, be patient! Spend some time under the stars and let your eyes adapt to the darkness, 15 to 20 minutes should be all it takes for your eyes to adapt to the low-light conditions and really start to pick out the finer details of the galaxy.
Finally, pick a dark sky location. We are lucky in WA to have many towns and shires on board with Astrotourism! Check out Astrotourism WA’s list of dark sky locations where you can see the Universe in all its glory! Or take a look at our latest list for the best places to observe the Milky Way in WA.
Beyond the Naked Eye
If you own a pair of good binoculars or a telescope, there are many more treasures hidden within the Milky Way to observe. Look for bright objects like:
· The red-supergiant star Antares
· The sweeping vistas of the Lagoon Nebula
· And the stunning shape of the Butterfly cluster
Below is an image to help you locate these awesome objects within the Milky Way.
Want to keep up to date with the WA Astronomy community?
We’ve created a little corner on Facebook to share and discuss all things astronomy and stargazing in Western Australia!