It’s that time for new observers from northern lattitudes to try some new delights in the southern night skies. In late August and early September, when you look directly south, the Milky Way rises in front of you. The sketch I did last night shows a quick observation at 9:30 pm local (Eastern Daylight Time). So if you can get to a dark place, I will explain what you will see. Let’s look at the sketch first.
Sketch shows a little of what a person can see every year during the early evening hours. I live around 39 degrees north lattitude. If you live around 50 degrees N lattitude, Saggitarius gets lower by another “fist” (about 10 degrees with your arm outstretched). If you live in the southern US or in Mexico, then the scene gets higher and higher. My friends in the Philippines will see this part of the Milky Way almost 30 degrees higher than I do. But, it will still split the sky in the high south.
If you look carefully, you will see two milky blobs where the M.W. is more dense. I show them on the sketch. One is just to the right of Saggitarius; the other is another 20 degrees up.
Do you have young strong eyes? Then start at the bottom (near the horizon) and run your eyes up the M.W. slowly. It’s apparent light density changes. Go side to side and watch the intensity go up and go down. If you look at the area a little indirectly (this is called “averted” vision), the scene improves!
If you have a binocular, see how many fuzzies you can find. Fuzzy? You are looking for groupings of stars or clusters. You might even find a couple stellar snowballs, or globular clusters, that are like a star that will not focus. These clusters typically hundreds of stars by they often appear in a binocular view as a tiny fuzz ball. The best place to look at the beginning is the area immediately to the right or above Saggitarius.
If you continue to follow the M.W. further to the North, it will pass over your left shoulder and high in the sky. There are dozens of things to see all along this beautfiul belt of stars.
Try it!! Go to previous lessons on the blog for some basic orientation if you are new to the blog. The titles show the lesson number but not all blog posts are lessons. Most of them were in June and July.
It is simply perfect that God would place the Milky Way around us in the manner that He did. We are not too far in, not foo far out. So many delightful objects we can see with low-power optics are in our M.W. neighborhood. Next time, we will pick a couple of them and observe them together.