The Milky Way Will Look Extra-Nice Friday Night
Since our solar system itself is part of the Milky Way galaxy, you are technically viewing it when you see a toaster waffle, your own thumb, or dog poop on the street. But we usually think of it as that pretty, cloudy white streak of light in the night sky, looking as though a scarf made of diamonds was tossed casually aside.
That's the Milky Way that blows our minds, when we get to see across our Danish-pastry-shaped part of the cosmos from our own location, layers and layers of a relatively flat, spirally, star-studded chunk of cool nebulae and whatnot. And that's what we'll have a shot at an extra-good view of this Friday night, June 28. (It's been pretty good all week, but Friday's the grand finale.)
It's difficult enough to stargaze among city lights that some kids grow up thinking that the gorgeous smear of the Milky Way is some kind of pollution. Though we want you to keep safe, we will point out that it's supposed to be 116 or 118 degrees out this weekend, so if you do want to get a ways out of the Valley, less pavement and fewer buildings mean not just darker skies but lower temperatures.
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Four Peaks Road is not too far away. Fountain Hills is a very dark place. Estrella Mountain Regional Park in Goodyear is famed for its observing conditions. Tucson maintains darker night skies to benefit Kitt Peak Observatory and because it's full of hippies.
If you enjoy some sweet historic pseudoscience in your sky, it'll also be a good night for seeing half the zodiac's constellations prancing down a gentle slope, starting high up and due west with Cancer and Leo, and proceeding from "right" (west) to left with Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, and, above the southern horizon, Sagittarius.
The moon won't rise until about 11:30 p.m. Friday, at which point it will start washing out other bright things in the sky, so skedaddle on out after dark, look to the east, and enjoy the sights. As the Milky Way rises higher starting at 10 p.m.-ish, it will not only clear trees, rooftops, and other crap, but it'll be sitting in a darker part of the sky. So what we're saying is that the prime time is limited. Binoculars are a big help, too, as are a blanket to lie back on and a good friend who won't find the whole thing boring and dumb.
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