Space is the breath of art.
I thought this would be worth a mention….
The constellations have been gazed upon in wonder since the dawn of civilisation. We are taught their names and how to spot them from a fairly early age. Looking out your window now (if its night-time there that is) you could most probably instantly recognise constellations such as the Great Bear (Ursa Major), Orion and perhaps the Big Dipper, but few will be able to spot the Milky Way. Our galaxy is by far one of the most profound and interesting things you can see in the night sky. You are looking at hundreds of billions of stars all suspended in a single plane circling a lone black hole. The galaxy comprises of a concentration of stars separated by a band of dark interstellar clouds called ‘the Great Rift’.
Now, the difficulty to identify the Milky Way isn’t the fault of education, in fact if the Milky Way was visible you wouldn’t be able to take your eyes off of it. No, it is the harsh draw back of living in the city. The street lamps and other common light source may light up our roads and walkways but unfortunately they also dampen the majesty of the night sky. Light pollution is a real problem as the size of zones of dark sky is slowly vanishing as our cities develop and expand, in fact there is an institution devoted to conservation of our night sky http://www.darksky.org/about-ida
The Milky Way, as shown above (as can be seen with the naked eye in the appropriate location), is one of the biggest victims of light pollution. From the city, the Milky Way is almost entirely invisible, however, if you were to head somewhere beyond the wondering artificial light, such as the country side, you have a much better chance of seeing this entire galaxy without any visual aids! Although the light from cities can spread out in an aura so you may need to go further afield.
However, light pollution is only half the story, there is also another perpetrator shrouding the glory of the true night sky, the Moon.
Of course, the beauty of the Moon shouldn’t be undermined, however if you want to see the Milky way, the glow of the Moon can hide it from view. Therefore the best time to go on a quest for the Milky Way is during a new moon.
What’s more, the Sun can have an impact on the Milky Way’s visibility. Even when it is out of sight, its rays can creep across the atmosphere and undetectably decrease the clarity of the night sky!
Clearly seeing the Milky Way is a very delicate business! I may have given the impression earlier that the light from our cities our setting the night sky ablaze and that you should go outside immediately and tear down all your street lamps, but it is only a factor and the Milky Way is a very evasive galaxy visually! To see the Milky Way at its best takes a bit of planning and a bit of travelling and in fact there are only a few occasions throughout the year when the Milky Way can be seen as it was meant to be seen, and one of these occasions is very soon.
The best time to see it is of an evening in winter or spring, but some dates are particularly better than others. November the 11th is one of these dates and is when you are most likely to see the Milky Way in all its glory (and I believe sometime in December), so if you were looking at going to see it (as I’m sure many people are…) I’d suggest putting it off for about a week!
(That last line was all that I really wanted to say, but I didn’t want my first post to just be a single sentence :D)
I thought my first post would be about games… well I guess that most video games have a sky…
Thanks for reading! 🙂