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  1. #1
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Default Milky Way along the A.T.

    Are there any spots on the AT with decent visibility of the Milky Way, or is the East Coast corridor just too light polluted? Can't say I've ever seen it on the nights I've been out so far, but I wasn't really looking either.
    While searching for that unknown edge in life, never forget to look home. For the greatest edge you can find in life is to stand in the protective shadow of those who love you.

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    i'm so ignorant of astronomy that my first thought in response to your question is to say "arent most of the stars you see in the sky part of the milky way?"

    so specifically, i dont have an answer.

    but, i can say if you want to see a whole lot of stars in the sky the place to do it along the AT is in Maine

  3. #3
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    I'm referring to the "core" of the galaxy I think it's referred to. Looks like a bright tube of stars in the sky. My first night in the Sierra, the whole sky was lit up, it was jaw-dropping.
    While searching for that unknown edge in life, never forget to look home. For the greatest edge you can find in life is to stand in the protective shadow of those who love you.

  4. #4

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    Dark Site Finder is a great resource: http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html

    With just a quick glance, Katahdin/Baxter SP looks like your best bet.

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    When someone speaks of the visibility of "the Milky Way", they are talking about seeing the faint background light from the bulk of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
    When it comes to seeing individual stars, we can only see individual stars that are near our solar system in the galaxy. But you have to remember that our location in the galaxy is far out on an arm of the galaxy. When the sky is dark enough (i.e. void of light pollution), you can see a white haze in the sky that is caused by the sum total light from the billions of stars too far away for us to see. It has a milky color to it, hence the name "Milky Way" for our galaxy.

    There should be plenty of places where you're far enough from city lights to be able to the Milky Way... but for sure, in the Great Smoky Mountains, anywhere along the AT ridge where you can get a clear view of the night sky, you should be able to easily spot the Milky Way. At most shelters, there's enough trees cleared out of the way you should be able to see it.

    BTW: If you google for images of the Milky Way, the pictures you see will be the results of what happens when photographic equipment picks up a cumulative light over a period of time. When you see it in person, it will NOT look a thing like ANY of the photographs you will find.


    Edit: Ok, I take that back. Here's an image I could find online this somewhat shows what you will see. However, the difference is that when you see it in person, you'll be able to see across the entire sky, not just one spot... and what you will see is this milky color in areas along a band in the sky.
    Last edited by HooKooDooKu; 05-10-2018 at 13:24.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post

    BTW: If you google for images of the Milky Way, the pictures you see will be the results of what happens when photographic equipment picks up a cumulative light over a period of time. When you see it in person, it will NOT look a thing like ANY of the photographs you will find.


    Edit: Ok, I take that back. Here's an image I could find online this somewhat shows what you will see. However, the difference is that when you see it in person, you'll be able to see across the entire sky, not just one spot... and what you will see is this milky color in areas along a band in the sky.
    I went to some talks by amateur astronomers at an observatory before. I found it quite interesting how they take the deep space pictures. A local guy did a lot of that kind of thing. Basically using like a computer web cam, and taking millions of photos over a several week period, and overlapping them with software.

    Just with binoculars you can see nebulas and dust clouds and things and it's quite fascinating really. And you can build a better telescope for cheap, than you can buy. Google dobsonian telescope.

    Just looking up in the sky you can actually see satellites and space junk crossing the sky all the time with your Naked Eyes if you know what you're looking for. Look for something moving a lot faster than an airplane Horizon to Horizon. Some group publishes charts of what you can see in the night sky from what location all the time.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 05-10-2018 at 13:34.

  7. #7

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    I've seen the milky way many times near the Hampton Tennessee section. Specifically if you take the Lacy Trap side trail down White Rocks Mountain to Frog Level. Its very dark there.

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    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    I've only seen it once on all my section hikes through the southern states, in Grayson Highlands.
    It's all good in the woods.

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    I did a good chunk of my growing up in Oklahoma. Often I would sleep outside on a cot with a constellation map and study the night sky. Astronomy, Star Trek, etc. The Milky Way was easy to see, easiest on a dark night with no moon. And because the trees and topography in Oklahoma don't obstruct the view like they do in TN, the sky was big and the Milky Way was big.

    Here in Tennessee, I live far enough out in the sticks that it seems unlikely that town lights would affect my view of the sky. I don't see the Milky Way much, but I suspect it's more closely related to the humidity/clouds/fog and obstructions than to light pollution.

    ----------------------------------
    Did a little googling to learn more. According to this website, even towns 25 miles away can significantly affect your view of the night sky. And yes, humidity is a factor as well.

    https://improvephotography.com/38555...y-photography/

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    clingmans dome...........max patch............little and big humps...........

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    Plenty of spots in NW Maine. Russell Pond Wassataquoik Lake, Nesowadnehunk Field and South Branch Ponds at BSP are all hard to beat.

    The whites are surrounded by small towns so there is some light pollution. The Wild River or Pemi wildernesses are all shielded by mountains.

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    Can't say if I was seeing the Milky Way when I was on the PCT in Southern California, but I can say that the night skies were beautiful. I was also in Alaska and the Northern Lights made it worth the entire trip worth it.
    Blackheart

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    Plenty of places in the South are far enough from city lights for a good view of the Milky Way. The moon phase is more important much of the time. We get good views at Grayson Highlands pretty regularly. Here's an okay photo from the ridge line summit of Stone Mountain, just south of Scales.

    https://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/sho...&imageuser=266
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  14. #14

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    Grayson Highlands come to mind.

  15. #15
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Good to hear a few responses about seeing it at Grayson Highlands as I'm headed there this weekend! Might be justification enough to bring my camera along with me so I can take a few long exposure shots!
    While searching for that unknown edge in life, never forget to look home. For the greatest edge you can find in life is to stand in the protective shadow of those who love you.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by JPritch View Post
    Good to hear a few responses about seeing it at Grayson Highlands as I'm headed there this weekend! Might be justification enough to bring my camera along with me so I can take a few long exposure shots!
    This time of year, best viewing is pre-dawn. On Sunday morning the moon will rise at 5:28am, so 4am - 5am is probably a good window. Find a viewing location with a good view to the southwest.

  17. #17

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    You need a combination of a dark area (several places have been mentioned), a really clear night, and no moon (a new moon, before the moon rises, or after the moon sets).

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    Registered User Shooting Star's Avatar
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    I'm also a hobby astronomer and the Grayson Highlands is outstanding on a clear, dry night.
    In the summer you get a great Milky Way view with almost 3-d marble texture in what you see.
    Any of the central Virginia trail sections up to Front Royal that are 30 miles from a sizable city
    should have good night skies.

  19. #19
    Registered User Shooting Star's Avatar
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    And as others have mentioned, the moon needs to be out of the way. A 1 or 2 day crescent moon still allows
    a decent Milky Way view but a fuller moon than that really washes out faint stuff in the night sky. The summer
    Milky Way is more prominent because at night we're looking inward toward the core of our galaxy and we're
    seeing a lot more stars. During winter, at night, we're looking away from the galactic core and the Milky Way
    that we see is just the outer section of our spiral arm - a lot fewer stars to see.

    All the stars you see in the night sky are in our galaxy and any of the stars that you can individually
    resolve with the naked eye are in our end of the galaxy. Interestingly enough, you can also see 2 or 3
    galaxies naked eye if you know where to look and are out in the countryside. The easy one is the Andromeda
    galaxy up in the constellation of the same name. Under dark skies, you'll see a distinct glow about a quarter
    of the size of a full moon. We're colliding with this galaxy in several billion years. Can you imagine the night
    sky in the distant future with another galaxy dominating the night sky?

  20. #20

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    The easiest time to see the milky way is in the summer because it is near the zenith for a large part of the night. If you know what you're looking for it can even be seen in suburban areas on clear moonless nights. Just about anywhere in Shenandoah NP would be a great place to see the milky way. Really almost all the way to Harper's Ferry would work. The darker the sky the more spectacular it will be. In fact in a really dark sky location you might have a problem recognizing the familiar constellations because there will be so many more stars visible than you are used to seeing. Here is a photo I took of Comet Hyatutake with an SLR camera on a tripod from Great Meadows in Shenandoah National Park. The dark skies and altitude make it a really nice place for astronomy.
    IMG_0001.jpg
    Last edited by TexasBob; 05-10-2018 at 22:09.
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