A Pair of Grand Galaxies
The Milky Way as a deep-sky object? Why not?
The night sky is boundless, providing observers with a lifelong source of fascination and wonder. Once you open your eyes and engage your imagination, any clear night becomes one of discovery. For those new to this adventure, here are a pair of galactic sights to explore. Think of them as your first steps to the cosmos.
The Milky Way as a Deep-Sky Object
The Milky Way is the most magnificent deep-sky object of all. Under a dark sky it is truly one of nature's most impressive spectacles. Unfortunately, most city dwellers cannot see it at all. It's barely detectable from the suburbs. If you're planning a summer camping trip into the wilderness, add some galactic exploration to the itinerary. Since the chief requirement is a dark sky, check for dates when the Moon will absent for at least part of the evening; there is no point in trading one form of light pollution for another.
Although our view of the galaxy is from the inside looking out, the naked-eye Milky Way does bear a striking resemblance to photographs of edge-on galaxies. Facing Sagittarius we look toward our galaxy's crowded central region. The Milky Way's true center is hidden from view behind opaque curtains of dust and gas. However, there is much to see with binoculars or a small telescope. A casual scan will uncover numerous clusters and gas clouds.
To help get you going, our interactive sky chart is set for early evening on September 1st and plots a few of the more spectacular sights such as the Lagoon Nebula (M8), the globular cluster M22, and a pair of open clusters M6 and M7. The chart is set at 40° north latitude for central North America. To see a view of the entire sky at this time or to adjust the sky scene, press the "Back To Combined View" button on the lower right of the screen. Then click on the "change" button to alter either the date and time or viewing location displayed by the chart.