Winter Milky Way – Auriga to Canis Major

Sketch of the Winter Milky Way (Auriga, Taurus, Gemini, Orion, Canis Minor, Monoceros, Canis Major, Lepus)

Sketch of the Winter Milky Way (Auriga to Canis Major)

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Observation Notes:

From a true, dark sky, nothing can compare to a naked eye view of the Milky Way. During the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere, we face away from the furiously busy core of our home galaxy and look outward, through its more tenuous periphery. Despite being more delicate, this slice of the Milky Way is still rich with structure.

From Sunset Crater National Monument, the dizzying heights of this misty waterfall cascade through Auriga, past Taurus and Orion, before drenching Monoceros and Canis Major in a spray of rippling starlight. You can recall the splendor with simple, fond memories; flowery prose; bold photos; or you might try to embrace it with a sketch. You know what I did. I got a little ambitious actually, and ended up trying to bottle 80 degrees of sky onto 8 inches of paper.

A cartographer I am not. Pressing such a large section of the sky onto a flat sheet can be a surprisingly ornery process. After several erasures, I had my bright stars plotted and worked my way through the constellations and then the fainter stars they encompass. This took up my first early morning of observing. On the second morning, I worked my way down the Milky Way from Auriga to Canis Major. Auriga was at culmination when I started, and Canis Major was reaching its apex when I finished. Along the way, I was able to enjoy the delicate clumps of several open clusters. More were certainly within grasp, but I had to leave those for another session at some point in the future.

The overall structure in the sketch is rather blunt compared to the subtle glow the Milky Way gives in person. However, I feel like I know this piece of sky much better, having tried to reproduce its fluttering streamers of light and dark. I’m looking forward to seeing its familiar face again very soon.

Subject Winter Milky Way
(Auriga, Taurus, Gemini, Orion, Canis Minor, Monoceros, Canis Major, Lepus)
Classification Constellations and Milky Way
Position (J2000)*
Date/Time OCT 26, 2009: 01:00 – 04:30 AM (OCT 26, 2009: 08:00 – 11:30 UT)
OCT 31, 2009: 04:00 – 05:30 AM (OCT 31, 2009: 11:00 – 12:30 UT)
Observing Loc. Cinder Hills Overlook, Sunset Crater National Monument, AZ
Instrument Naked Eye (-0.75 Diopter Prescription Glasses)
Conditions Clear, cold, slight breeze
Seeing 5/10 Pickering
Transparency Mag 7.0+ NELM
*References Starry Night Pro Plus 5.x

3 Replies to “Winter Milky Way – Auriga to Canis Major”

  1. Hi Jeremy,
    wow, what an awesome sketch! There are a few Milky Way sketches around but your’s is the best of the bunch I have seen so far and I really like your stars and the constellation labelling in the mouse over.
    Is this going to find it’s way into your Astronomy Now column at some stage?
    I tried this around three or four years ago, of the Summer MW, and I never finished it although it’s something I keep intending to return to one day. You’re right, it is an ornery process, it took several scrapped sketchbook pages (and a few crude words) to get to a stage where I thought even the bare beginnings were acceptable. After looking at yours, I think I’ll have another crack at mine.
    Clear skies and Merry Christmas

  2. Faith, thanks very much!
    I always enjoy the way you describe your observing sessions–the good times and the not so good. I really do hope you get a chance to sketch a segment of the Milky Way again.
    This Milky Way drawing will actually be the subject of the January column in Astronomy Now–so it should be out in the next few days. 🙂
    There is a lot of very good, very recent work from observers sketching the Milky Way. These are a few that I enjoyed over at CloudyNights:
    By Tenth Enemy
    By Linda Laakso
    By Juha Ojanperä
    By Aaron
    By Rony DeLaet
    Wishing you good health, clear skies and enjoyable sketches,

  3. Thanks for the links Jeremy, there’s some great MW sketches there.
    I’ll keep a look out for AN, I don’t subscribe but I do buy most issues.
    Thanks for the kind comments about my blog, I am glad you enjoy reading it. 🙂

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