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Celebration of Space - June 25, 2021

The Milky Way rises over Frosty Drew Observatory. Image credit: Brandon Buckman.

The Milky Way rises over Frosty Drew Observatory. Image credit: Brandon Buckman.

Save the Date! Next Saturday, July 3, 2021, Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center will celebrate the holiday weekend by bringing back our super popular Celebrate the Milky Way event. These are the nights that we think will bring the best views of the Milky Way over Frosty Drew Observatory on a Saturday night. Seeing the Milky Way is a huge bucket list item for many in the Southern New England and Tri-state area, and how to observe the Milky Way is one of the most frequently asked questions we receive at Frosty Drew.

Read about it!

At Frosty Drew’s location in Ninigret Park, so many variables come together to create the perfect setting for super dark sky conditions, which allow for easy views of the Milky Way galaxy. But having super dark sky conditions is not enough. Weather, the Moon, and timings are all important factors. Obviously you will not see the Milky Way if it’s cloudy, but being that the Milky Way is so dim, even haze will significantly affect your view. The Moon is also a view killer. Like the Sun and light pollution, the Moon will illuminate Earth’s atmosphere. The fuller the phase the more dramatic this effect will be. Even a crescent Moon will illuminate the atmosphere enough to seriously overpower the Milky Way. But all of that means nothing if the Milky Way is just not out.

Due to Earth’s orbit around the Sun, the tilt of Earth’s axis, and the tilt of the Solar System to the galactic plane, we get a very obscure view of the galaxy. The galactic nucleus, which is that view you often see in pictures, resides in the constellation Sagittarius, which is visible during the mid-spring – mid-autumn months. Outside of that period, Earth’s night sky is in the opposite direction of the galactic center, and we see the outer edge of the side of the galaxy that we reside on, which is much dimmer. Timings also play an important part regarding local issues as well. At Frosty Drew, we have spectacular views of the SE → SSW sky, though further west will bring the artificial light bomb of Westerly, RI, and New London, CT, which will start to obscure our view of the Milky Way, eventually rendering it invisible closer to the horizon in the west. This places best viewing from Frosty Drew Observatory from mid-spring – mid-summer.

We have three Celebrate the Milky Way events planned for 2021, which are solely dedicated to observing the Milky Way. But the Friday nights before those events are also equally fantastic opportunities to see the Milky Way, as is the Perseid Meteor Shower this year. So put next Saturday on your calendar and add the Milky Way to your Fourth of July revelries and check that item off your bucket list.

Scott MacNeill
Author:
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Jun 25, 2021
Published Under:
Scott MacNeill's Columns
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