Best Nights to See the Milky Way This Summer


Summer is the best time to see the Milky Way in the Northern Hemisphere without a telescope. Here’s when and where to look.

Prime Time for Milky Way Viewing

This summer, you have the chance to see the Milky Way’s brilliant center.

From July to August, it’s visible from the Northern Hemisphere if you’re in the right place at the right time.

Clear, dark skies on moonless nights are essential for this stellar spectacle.

However, due to light pollution, most people in North America and Europe must travel to dark-sky locations to see the Milky Way.

The reason is the significant light pollution in urban and suburban areas, which washes out the faint light of distant stars.

Only about 10 moonless nights each summer month are ideal for viewing, which is why 80% of North Americans have never seen it.

Viewing Windows and Locations

From the Northern Hemisphere, the Milky Way is visible from March to September.

The best times are early morning from March to June and in the evening from July to early October.

For instance, in March, you’d need to be up at 4 a.m. to catch a glimpse of the galaxy.

By September, it becomes an after-sunset show, which is much more convenient for most people.

Here are the best dates to view the Milky Way this summer and fall:

  • June 28 – July 8: These nights provide early summer viewing opportunities, just after the new moon.
  • July 28 – August 7: Prime time in mid-summer, offering warm nights and optimal viewing conditions.
  • August 26 – September 6: Late summer into early fall, these nights offer great visibility with cooler temperatures.
  • September 24 – October 5: Early autumn nights, the last good chance before the Milky Way fades from view.

Tips for Optimal Viewing

  1. Avoid Moonlight: The 10 nights around the new moon are best since the moon won’t interfere with your view.

The moon’s brightness can overpower the faint light of the Milky Way, making it difficult to see.

  1. Check Sunset Times: Especially in July and August, sunset and sunrise times limit hours of darkness.

Look right after sunset but ensure it’s fully dark.

Plan to stay out for a few hours after sunset for the best experience.

  1. Adapt Your Eyes: Let your eyes adjust to the dark for at least 20 minutes.

Avoid looking at bright screens or lights after sunset.

This adaptation process is crucial because it allows your eyes to become sensitive enough to see the faint stars and details of the Milky Way.

  1. Find Dark Spots: Use tools like DarkSky’s Find a Dark Sky Place or the Dark Site Finder, or check light pollution maps.

Rural areas, national parks, and remote locations far from city lights are ideal spots.

Southern Viewing Advantage

The farther south you are, the more of the Milky Way you’ll see.

For example, the constellation Sagittarius, home to the galaxy’s bright central black hole, is low on the southern horizon from New York state at 41 degrees north latitude.

From Miami, at 26 degrees north, Sagittarius will appear 15 degrees higher in the sky, providing a better view of the galaxy’s core.

This makes southern locations particularly advantageous for stargazing.

With these tips and the right timing, you can experience the awe-inspiring sight of the Milky Way, even without a telescope.

A pair of binoculars or a small telescope can enhance the experience, allowing you to zoom in on specific stars and nebulae.

Happy stargazing!