What's New: May 2018

The Galaxies of Spring

For amateur astronomers, spring brings its own share of delights.

We live, of course, in the Milky Way Galaxy; if we could look at it from some distance away, we'd be able to see its beautiful spiral structure. Needless to say, we can never have that view; we're embedded in the galactic disk, and we see the stars of the disk forming a band that encircles us in every direction. Ancient peoples had numerous myths and legends about the nature of the Milky Way, but it wasn't until Galileo aimed a telescope at the sky that we realized that it is composed of numerous stars sharing this galaxy with us. Sadly, due to urbanization and the spread of light pollution, over a third of the world’s population are unable to see the Milky Way from their homes.

The plane of Earth's orbit around the Sun is tilted with respect to the plane of our galaxy. If you are fortunate enough to be watching from a dark rural site, you may see the Milky Way arching overhead in many seasons of the year. On evenings in May, though, the galaxy is low in the sky and we have a clear view out into the regions beyond our local galactic structure. Now more than at any other time of year, we can see deep into the intergalactic gulf.

Virgo Cluster