Today’s chart (top of post) is aimed toward the galaxy’s center, which is located some 30,000 light-years away. Many people find it by locating the prominent asterism known as the Teapot in the constellation Sagittarius. Notice the Teapot on our chart and in the photo below. With the moon gone from the evening sky, this is an excellent time to trek out to the country for an edgewise view into our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
But if you’re more of an early bird than a night owl, be sure to get an eyeful of the morning tableau before dawn. By drawing an imaginary line from the last quarter moon through the dazzling planet Jupiter, you may be able to spot the rather faint yet visible red planet Mars. Also to the south (right) of Jupiter, behold Orion the Hunter, the gem of all constellations.
This evening, however, you’ll be looking at the starlit band arcing completely across the sky – visible from country locations. You are peering edgewise into our own Milky Way galaxy. We tell you more below below.
The most important thing about seeing the Milky Way is to find a dark location. In the months of August, September and October – if you go someplace really dark – simply look up in the evening. The beautiful panorama will be waiting for you: a hazy band stretching all the way across the sky. The haze consists of myriads upon myriads of stars.
The chart at the top of this post shows that the starlit trail of the Milky Way seems to bulge just before it reaches the southern horizon. You can see this bulge in the night sky, and it marks the approximate location of the Milky Way’s center. This part of the Milky Way is vastly more spectacular in a dark night sky than it appears here on our chart! The constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius lie in this direction as well.
So take advantage of the the moon-free evenings, and go stargazing. And if you have them, bring along a pair of binoculars. If you scan with binoculars along the Milky Way, you’ll find many lovely clusters of stars. No need to know their names to enjoy them!
Bottom line: How can you find the center of our Milky Way galaxy? First, go to a dark, country location – far from city lights. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, look southward in the evening to locate the Teapot of the constellation Sagittarius. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, look overhead. The center of the Milky Way lies in the direction of the Teapot in Sagittarius.