On clear August nights, the Milky Way extends brilliantly from our southern horizon, creating a beautiful vision of stars, reflected light, nebulae, gas and dust. As darkness falls, and you step outside, it first appears as a band of clouds reaching across the sky. These "clouds" are actually stars that cannot be distinguished from one another with the unaided eye. In the southern portion you will be able to pick out constellations like Sagittarius, the Archer, more commonly known as “the teapot”, and Scorpius, the scorpion, pinchers reaching upward, tail trailing.
The Milky Way, where we Earthlings make our home, is a spiral galaxy about 100,000 light years across.
What we see from Earth are spiral arms, and part of the central bulge.
Using binoculars or a small telescope, you can start from the tail of Scorpius and scan up to Antares, a red super giant star known as the heart of the Scorpion. Scan further to pick out the Lagoon and Trifid nebulae; find various star clusters; and detect obscuring, inky black bands of dust that blot out the stars behind them. Throughout the Milky Way, you’ll see more stars than you thought imaginable.
Western Slope Skies is produced by members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.