Planning is fundamental in many types of photography, and it plays a key role when you want to photograph the Milky Way.
To the contrary of what many people think, our galaxy is visible throughout the year, but the most interesting area to shoot, the galactic center, is only visible for a few months depending on your location.
To help you plan your Milky Way images, every year I create some calendars where you can quickly see the best days to photograph the Milky Way in your location.
This Calendar is very straightforward, and it shows the main astronomical factors you need to consider to see the Milky Way:
- Date: We take as a reference every Saturday of the year. As a general rule, you can use the values two days before and two days after a certain date.
- Moon: In the first columns, you can see the moonrise/moonset and the moon phase. To see the Milky Way, we consider the hours when the moon is not visible or when its brightness is less than 30%.
- Sun: Here you can see the sunset and sunrise time in your location, which covers the timeframe when you can see the Milky Way.
- Milky Way: The time when the Milky Way is in the sky (even if it’s not visible)
- Galactic Center: This is the most important value, and it shows the time when the galactic center is visible and you can photograph it. You can see the start, end, and the total number of hours.
- Galactic Center Position: This column shows the position of the galactic center in the sky. According to the degrees, you can see the Milky Way horizontally as an arch, diagonal, or vertical depending on the location and time of year.
Considering all these factors, there are three possible scenarios marked in different colors:
- Days when the Milky Way is not visible
- Days when the Milky Way is visible, but only for a short period of time
- Days when the Milky Way is visible for several hours.
Below you can download our Milky Way Calendars for the most popular areas:
Milky Way Calendar – U.S. East Coast
Milky Way Calendar – U.S. Southwest
In addition to these, I have created 17 more calendars for other areas like the UK, Australia, the PNW, Southern USA, Europe, and more regions on the planet that you can download in our Capture the Atlas Milky Way Calendars list.
Each calendar is created for a specific latitude, so make sure you download the right calendar to have the most accurate data.
More things to keep in mind
In addition to the calendars, you should also consider other factors to see the Milky Way. To find the best locations, I strongly recommend using a light pollution map. If you want to know more about how to get the most out of these maps and find the best places near you, I recommend taking a look at this guide to see the Milky Way.
Another important factor are the clouds. Here I recommend checking official weather pages or apps.
On the other hand, don’t forget that your technique is the most important thing, so make sure you use the best Milky Way photography settings. Here you can also check 5 quick tips to shoot the Milky Way.
I hope these calendars help you plan great photos of the Milky Way this season! If you have any questions about how to use the calendars or any other questions related to Milky Way photography, feel free to leave them in the comments!
About the Author
Dan Zafra is a Spanish-born travel photographer living in the USA. His passion is to travel to where you can not only create beautiful photography but also to soak in those experiences which leave a permanent mark on your life. You can find out more about Dan on his website and follow his work on Facebook and Instagram. Images used with permission
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