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Summer is best time to view Milky Way galaxy in Arizona skies

(Pixabay Photo)

With the summer season well underway, it’s time to search our Arizona skies for one of the most amazing sights in the entire night sky.

Get set for the summer Milky Way!

This vast band of stars and dust is one of the most memorable objects to view, but you have to do a little planning to take advantage of it.

But first a little history on the details of just what the Milky Way really is.

Our galaxy is made up of well over 200 billion stars and vast amounts of dust and gas.

Our star, the Sun, lies some 27,000 light years from the central nucleus. The center of our Milky Way galaxy lies in the constellation of Sagittarius and can be seen on clear moonless nights by looking due south around 10 p.m. local time.

We live in a special part of this vast spiral galaxy, known as the Orion Arm.

The Milky Way is not a standard spiral galaxy, but a rather unique specimen, with a bar type structure on either side of the nucleus.

Here is what the Milky Way might actually look like:

Our Sun may be some 100 light years or more above the galactic plane.

The summer months offer up some of the best views of the Milky Way and I suggest that you search for a clear view of the southern sky and a near-moonless night, as the best of the summer Milky way will simply amaze you, around 10 p.m. local time.

The region that you will be looking at includes the constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius along with Ophiuchus and Scutum.

In dark skies, you will notice the “haze” of this vast band of light that will stretch from the northeast sky to the south.

Here is an image of the central region of our Milky Way and the objects visible with the naked eye and binoculars:

The best times to view the summer Milky Way will be during the last week of July into early August, as the moon will not interfere.

The central part of the Milky Way is thought to contain a massive black hole. This is known as Sagittarius A and may have a mass of some 4.6 million solar masses.

On a final note, the images that you see of the Milky Way are just of the arms that are within our local region.

We can’t, as of now, get an image of the true shape of our galaxy as we live inside of it and have never seen the true shape from above.

Having said that, there is so much of our galaxy to see in our Arizona skies, and summer is one of the best times to see it.

Sadly, only one third of the population of Earth has ever seen the Milky Way due to light pollution in high populated areas.

Enjoy this most magical sight!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.

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