Foto Dono's 2021 Milky Way Season - Part 3 - Looking for the Milky Way - February and March

Updated: Dec 31, 2020


The Milky Way over Big Cypress Swamp - Everglades, FL

Equipment, settings, and editing are the most manageable parts of recording and processing the Milky Way's light data. The hardest part is just time. The Milky Way and the rest of the night sky are continually changing throughout the year. However, with all our ability to forecast, sometimes mother nature has her ideas about it.


There are two tools I have found indispensable in helping me organize my time - PhotoPills and Stellarium+. I'd recommend exploring them at your leisure. They can help me plot out the year so that I can maximize my capture time. Using those tools, plus a healthy dose of Google-Fu, I've created my travel plan for the upcoming 2021 Milky Way Season. It's not something set in stone, but a guide to help me to look ahead.


Also, remember you are living in the Milky Way. Every night you can see it all around you. The Milky Way season refers to when you can see the Core of our galactic home.

I present my list for you to reference and maybe help plan your own Milky Way Season. The dates in my list are subject to changes. The list also assumes you are living in Florida and are going to be near the same location. You'll need to consult PhotoPiills and Stellerium+ for your areas.


FEBRUARY:

Starting around February 8th, before the New Moon, the Milky Way will be rising early in the morning, just before the Wanning Crescent Moon (11%). Facing South East, you'll need a clear view horizon, and the Core will be visible for about 10 minutes before the Moonrise. Although, when the Moon does rise, you might be able to use it to illuminate the foreground. Further, along with February, the viewing time improves. The 11th is New Moon, and there'll be uninterrupted views of the Galactic Core during that period. I usually pick dates around the New Moon to better my odds for capturing the galactic center. I also plan dates around Moonrise and Moonset times to maximize the time. In February, the Core is just barely peeking above the horizon. As it moves further above the horizon, it becomes more visible. Facing East, the entire Core will stretch from South to North. The best capture time is just before the Core disappears into the twilight.


Here are the dates I picked for February. The dates work around my work schedule. The times listed are the start and end times of the Core's visibility. The actual capture time is approximately a 45 to 30-minute window before it is no longer visible. The best location for my captures in February has been in the Kissimmee Prarie Preserve State Park. However, throughout most of February, there are many opportunities to photograph the Milky Way. Also, I tend to plan for several days as a backup if the weather changes or another project comes along. The Moon itself is either setting or rising well before the Core's visibility. I won't have to worry about it affecting the exposure. Another goal is to photograph the landscape as the sky shifts from the Blue Hour to the Golden Hour. If I am going to be up that early, I might as well snag the Sunrise. 😁


February 11th

  • New Moon

  • Core Visibility - 3:47 AM to 5:46 AM

  • Capture Time - 5:16 AM to 5:46 AM

  • Blue Hour - 6:40 AM

  • Golden Hour - 6:50 AM

  • Sunrise - 7:05 AM

February 12th

  • Core Visibility - 3:43 AM to 5:45 AM

  • Capture Time - 5:15 AM to 5:45 AM

  • Blue Hour - 6:40 AM

  • Golden Hour - 6:49 AM

  • Sunrise - 7:04 AM

  • Moonrise 7:53 AM - Waxing Crescent

February 13th

  • Core Visibility - 3:39 AM to 5:45 AM

  • Capture Time - 5:15 AM to 5:45 AM

  • Blue Hour - 6:39 AM

  • Golden Hour - 6:48 AM

  • Sunrise - 7:03 AM

  • Moonrise 8:28 AM - Waxing Crescent

February 14th

  • Core Visibility - 3:36 AM to 5:44 AM

  • Capture Time - 5:14 AM to 5:44 AM

  • Blue Hour - 6:38 AM

  • Golden Hour - 6:47 AM

  • Sunrise - 7:02 AM

  • Moonrise 9:01 AM - Waxing Crescent

February 18th

  • Core Visibility - 3:20 AM to 5:41 AM

  • Capture Time - 5:11 AM - 5:41 AM

  • Blue Hour - 6:35 AM

  • Golden Hour - 6:44 AM

  • Sunrise - 6:59 AM

February 19th

  • Moonset - 12:35 AM - First Quarter

  • Core Visibility - 3:16 AM to 5:40 AM

  • Capture Time - 5:10 AM to 5:40 AM

  • Blue Hour - 6:34 AM

  • Golden Hour - 6:43 AM

  • Sunrise - 6:58 AM

February 20th

  • Moonset 1:30 AM - Waxing Gibbous

  • Core Visibility - 3:12 AM to 5:39 AM

  • Capture Time - 5:09 AM to 5:39 AM