Photo Credit: JT Shimer
Peak Milky Way season is almost upon us here in the Garden State!
Here are the best dates and times when the Milky Way and the galactic center will be visible for the longest in the sky.
April 15 through April 29
The First View of the Milky Way
Mid-April to late April brings a period where the Milky Way is visible for a few hours with no moon influence. You can begin to see it around midnight for several hours. This is our official start of Milky Way Season!
May 13 through May 27th
Best View Before Summer Crowds
The Milky Way will show off “early” in the night, starting around 10-11 pm, and will be visible for several hours. With very little moon interference, the vertical will be more visible. Bonus this will be right before the Memorial Day crowds fill the sky with light pollution.
June 10 through June 24
Best Vertical Position
The timing is good, as the new moon is in the middle of the week, allowing perfect weekend opportunities on either side. Again, around 11 pm is the best time to start shooting, with the best vertical position of the center.
July 8 through July 22
NEW MOON On July 15th
At the beginning of July, you will be battling with the Jersey Shore light pollution, so we recommend heading to the “countryside” for darker areas – our map can help. The Milky Way will appear around 11 pm, and the galactic center will be visible for over 4 hours, providing a great opportunity.
August 5 through August 19
Earliest Rise Time
Starting at the beginning of August, the visible vertical center of the Milky Way will still be at a great angle. The visibility time will decrease this month to only around 3 hours. With the Milky Way rising around 10pm this is a favorable time for those that aren’t night owls but want to capture it.
The Best Range of Time
Days for maximum visibility peak from mid-April through August. Lucky for us, those are usually the warmer nights in New Jersey!
See the East Coast Milky Way times chart from Capture the Atlas below. It features days when the Milky Way is visible for only a short time, moon rise and moon set times, galactic center arch position, and more.
Here are some tips for shooting the Milky Way from our veteran photographers if you’re starting out or if you need a refresher.
Be Prepared For Photos
While you are out taking photos of the Milky Way, we recommend a headlamp with a red light to help keep your eyes natural when using your gear.
Sometimes we say your gear doesn’t matter, but in this case, it might be best to come prepared.
Don’t Forget Your Tripod
It is almost impossible to take photos of the Milky Way without a tripod. We have seen some people attempt to lean against backpacks and there is always more shake in the photos.
To ensure minimal shake in your photos we highly recommend grabbing a sturdy tripod for the best results in your Milky Way photos. We have some of our favorites listed below.
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Your Camera Settings Are Super Important
There’s a formula to calculate your maximum exposure time to avoid showing motion — something very important when shooting Milky Way photography.
500/(Your Focal Length x Crop Factor of Camera) = Maximum Exposure Time
If you’re unsure of your crop factor, here it is:
- Full frame sensors have a crop factor of 1x
- Crop sensors have crop factors of 1.5x or 1.6x (Depending on make and model)
For more on how to get the best Milky Way pictures, check out the latest from Mike.
Choosing Location for Milky Way Photos
Obviously, you have to shoot at night. Those times above will give you the best shot at getting, well, the best shot.
But areas near cities will give you nothing but light pollution, so try and pick a spot in North or South Jersey in the mountains or at the beach away from civilization.
You can see tons of stars on a clear night in Ocean City or Long Beach Island.
Stars, the Milky Way, and even planets are able to be seen in areas with VERY low light pollution, and on nights when a new moon has just started. Check out part one of our astrophotography guide for more.
Our map has plenty of places to try out if you’re just starting. If you have a new addition (that you want to share with the world) let us know!