See The Milky Way With A Naked Eye This Summer: When, Where, And How?

4th Jul 2024
See The Milky Way With A Naked Eye This Summer: When, Where, And How?

Summer is traditionally the best season to observe the Milky Way in the Northern Hemisphere without using a telescope. This year, you can catch this breathtaking sight during three periods in the summer and once in early autumn. If the skies are clear, you can witness billions of stars stretching across the night sky!

How Can You See the Milky Way?

According to Capture The Atlas, the Milky Way is visible year-round from anywhere on Earth. However, there is a special “Milky Way season” that refers to the period when the most stunning part of our galaxy, the Galactic Center or “Galactic Bulge,” is visible in the sky.

The Best Place & Time For Viewing It

Your latitude on Earth influences when you can see the Milky Way, but generally, it is visible in the early morning from March to June and in the evening from July to early October. For instance, to see the Milky Way in March, you’ll need to be up at 4 am, whereas by September, you can view it just after sunset.

From the Northern Hemisphere, you can observe the Milky Way between March and September. In the Southern Hemisphere, this viewing window extends by roughly a month on each side.

Best Time To See The Milky Way In The UK

Milky Way in the UK
Milky Way in the UK (Durdle Door) during the UK Milky Way season. Image Credit: Matty Whitton /

In the UK, the optimal time to view the Milky Way is from mid-March to mid-May. However, it can also be visible for shorter durations from late February to late September. Keep in mind that in high latitudes, there is no darkness during the summer months, so you won’t be able to see the Milky Way in the UK during June and July.

Conditions For The Best Observation

The first obligatory condition to see the Milky Way is darkness. This means the best time to see it is between sunset and sunrise. However, doesn’t mean that as soon as the sun goes down, you will see the Milky Way. It will be faint during the “blue hour,” the period of twilight in the morning or evening when the sun is below the horizon, but its indirect sunlight illuminates the sky. During this time, the sky appears predominantly blue; this is where its name comes from. The blue hour lasts 20 to 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset, depending on your location and time of year. So you’ll need to wait until the end of astronomical twilight to see it clearly.

blue hour milky way
Milky Way during a “blue hour. Image Credit:

Moonlight is another crucial factor in determining the best time of night to view the Milky Way. Checking moon conditions is not a complicated thing:

  • Moon phase: the moon can illuminate the landscape, but if it exceeds 30% illumination, it can significantly diminish Milky Way visibility.
  • Moonrise/Moonset: Even during a full moon, the moon’s position below the horizon won’t affect Milky Way visibility. Be sure to note when the moon rises and sets to avoid harsh light interference.

Here is a Moon Light world map to check the moon phase in your location.

Closest Periods To See Milky Way In 2024

This summer and autumn, the best times to see the Milky Way are the following:

  • 28th June – 8th July;
  • 28th July – 7th August;
  • 26th August – 6th September;
  • 24th September – 5th October.

As we mentioned above, the best time to see the Milky Way largely depends on where you are located. Therefore, here is a 2024 Milky Way Calendar to accurately define the best time of the year to see the Milky Way according to your location.

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