Suppose you’re an astronomy enthusiast living in Florida. In that case, you may wonder when the best time to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way is.
The optimal period for viewing the celestial spectacle in the Sunshine State is from late spring into the fall. During this “Milky Way Season,” the conditions for viewing are at their peak, making it the perfect opportunity to see our home galaxy in all its glory.
Milky Way season is when the Galactic Center is visible. The core of the Milky Way is the Galactic Center, the brightest and most spectacular part of the galaxy. The best time to see the Milky Way in Florida is during the Milky Way Season.
In this article, you get
The Milky Way core rise and set times in Florida
An infographic showing the number of hours per month the Galactic Center is visible
A list of some of the darkest stargazing locations in Florida
Tips on how to best observe the Milky Way
By the end of the article, you’ll be able to plan your perfect stargazing evening, complete with being able to see the Milky Way Galactic Center.
Let’s dive right in.
BEST TIME TO SEE MILKY WAY IN FLORIDA
The best time to see the Milky Way is usually during the late evening or early morning hours, on nights with a new moon, during the “Milky Way Season” (spring to fall). This is when the sky is darkest, and the conditions for viewing the galaxy are at their best.
I’ve listed below the exact time the Galactic Center rises and sets per month. The dates I used were the middle of the month, like January 15th, February 15th, and so on.
As you can see, the Galactic Center is only visible very early in the morning until late spring. Then, during summer, it rises late in the evening and sets early in the morning. By the end of summer, it’s only visible for a few hours after sunset. In December, the core is not visible at all.
The Milky Way Galactic Center rise and set times for the middle of each month:
- January 5:26 am – 5:50 am
- February 3:25 am – 5:39 am
- March 2:35 am – 3:37 am
- April 0:33 am – 5:36 am
- May 11:35 pm – 5:06 am
- June 9:48 pm – 4:55 am
- July 9:47 pm – 4:28 am
- August 9:21 pm – 2:27 am
- September 8:43 pm – 0:25 am
- October 8:10 pm – 10:27 pm
- November 6:50 pm – 7:25 pm
- December not visible
IS THE MILKY WAY VISIBLE EVERY NIGHT?
The Milky Way is visible in the Florida night sky every night, but it may not be visible to the naked eye from where you are. To know in which direction to face, read my article What Direction is the Milky Way in Florida?
The brightness of the Milky Way varies depending on the time of year, the weather conditions, and your location.
The best time to view the Milky Way is during the late evening or early morning hours when the sky is darkest. It is also essential to find a location with a clear view of the sky, away from city lights and other sources of light pollution.
WHEN IS MILKY WAY SEASON?
Even though the Milky Way is visible year-round, the core of the Milky Way is not.
The core is not always visible throughout the year because it is in the sky during daylight hours.
This is why amateur astronomers refer to this time as Milky Way Season.
WHERE IS THE DARKEST SKY IN FLORIDA?
Several locations in Florida are known for their dark skies and good conditions for stargazing.
To find the darkest skies, you can use a Florida Dark Sky Map.
Here are a few locations with the darkest skies in Florida.
For a complete list, read my article on the best stargazing in Florida.
BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE
This national preserve is located in south Florida and is known for its dark skies and excellent stargazing conditions.
OCALA NATIONAL FOREST
This forest is home to the Silver Springs State Park.
MERRITT ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
This is located on the east coast of Florida and is home to the Kennedy Space Center. It has dark skies and is a popular spot for stargazing.
CAMPSITES AND STATE PARKS
Many campsites and state parks in Florida offer dark skies and good conditions for stargazing. Some options include the Withlacoochee State Forest, the Falling Waters State Park, and the Everglades National Park.
It’s a good idea to check the light pollution levels and the weather forecast before planning a stargazing trip to ensure the best viewing conditions.
Given the above list, you should now be able to answer your friends when they ask “Is Florida good for stargazing?”
HOW TO SEE THE MILKY WAY
Here are a few tips for seeing the Milky Way:
- Get away from city lights: The bright lights of cities and towns can make it difficult to see the Milky Way. Find a location away from city lights for the best viewing experience.
- Go outside on a clear night: Check the weather forecast and try to plan your stargazing trip for a night when the skies are expected to be clear.
- Use a red light: White light can be bothersome when stargazing, as it can interfere with your night vision. Use a red light or a flashlight with a red filter to preserve your night vision and make it easier to see the Milky Way.
- Look Up: The Milky Way is a faint band of light in the night sky. It is easily viewed with the naked eye, but you can also use binoculars or a telescope for a more detailed look.
If you’re interested in astrophotography, read my article on how to photograph the Milky Way in Florida.
HOW RARE IS IT TO SEE THE MILKY WAY?
It is common to see the Milky Way, as it is visible in the Florida night sky every night.
However, it may not be visible to the naked eye every night due to factors such as clouds, fog, and light pollution.
In areas with bright lights and high levels of light pollution, it may be challenging to see the Milky Way at all. In these cases, it may feel rare to see the Milky Way.
Still, with a little effort and planning, it is usually possible to find a location with dark skies and good viewing conditions. This is similar for seeing the Big Dipper in Florida.
In conclusion, the best time to see the Milky Way in Florida is from April through October, when the constellation Sagittarius, which the Milky Way is a part of, is visible in the night sky.
With clear, dark skies and minimal light pollution, places like Big Cypress National Preserve, Ocala National Forest, and Everglades National Park offer some of the best views of the Milky Way in the state.
So mark your calendars, pack your camera and binoculars, and head out to one of these breathtaking locations for a chance to witness the beauty and wonder of the Milky Way.
It’s an experience you’ll never forget!