guide to photograph the milky way and get rid of noise in lightroom

How to photograph the Milky Way and the Galactic Center

Photographing the Milky Way is one of those experiences that leaves you in awe and gets you forever hooked.

Seeing the stars with the naked eye is always impressive, but there’s something special about when you shoot the Milky Way and see our galaxy captured on your camera screen.

However, taking pictures of the Milky Way seems like a daunting task: Which are the best settings to photograph the Milky Way? Is my camera good enough for Milky Way photography? How can I focus on the stars?

I’ve spent years photographing the Milky Way in many different locations, and I can tell you one thing: Milky Way photography is easy as long as you understand just a few basic concepts.

Ready to learn how to photograph the Milky Way like an expert?!

How to photograph the Milky Way

How to photograph the Milky Way

A good starting point to photograph the Milky Way is aperture f/2.8 or the widest possible in your lens, ISO 1600-6400, and a shutter speed between 10-25 seconds depending on your focal length to capture sharp stars.

Before going into details,  this is how to photograph the Milky Way in 12 easy steps:

infographic how to photograph the milky way capture the atlas. 10 step by step guide

Also, don’t forget to plan your Milky Way session. You can use our 2020 Milky Way Calendars to see at a glance the best days of the year to photograph the Milky Way according to your location.

Now we will dive deeper into how to photograph the Milky Way like a pro:

1. Know the best time to photograph the Milky Way

There are a few elements that will help you determine the best time to photograph the Milky Way, and they’re related to the time of the year and the hour of the day.

best months to photograph the milky way

Although you can photograph the Milky Way at any time of the year, the Galactic Center will be most visible in the following time frame:

  • In the Northern Hemisphere, the Galactic Center will be visible from the end of March to the beginning of October. You’ll find the best months to photograph the Milky Way are between May and August.
  • In the Southern Hemisphere, the Galactic Center will be visible from the end of February to the beginning of October. You’ll find the best months to photograph the Milky Way are between April and August.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t take photographs of the Milky Way during winter, but the Milky Way core won’t be visible during this season.

Best months to photograph the Milky Way

Milly Way at the end of August at Bryce Canyon – Utah, USA

The best time to photograph the Milky Way will also depend on the type of Milky Way photography composition you’re looking for, since the position of the Milky Way on the horizon changes over time from southeast to southwest.

Using the Northern Hemisphere Milky way season as an example:

  • In April and May, the Milky Way will be practically horizontal across the southeast, perfect for panoramas capturing the Milky Way bow.
  • In June and July, the Milky Way will be facing south with a diagonal inclination for many different compositions.
  • In August and September, the Milky Way will be increasingly vertical and located towards the southwest, ideal for shots where you can highlight an element along with the Milky Way.
photograph the milky way settings

Winter Milky Way shot in January in Fuerteventura – Canary Islands, Spain

You can learn more about photography composition here.

Best time of day to photograph the Milky Way

As for the best time of day to photograph the Milky Way, this will also depend on the season. In addition, you must consider other factors, such as the total hours of sun, moonrise time, and the moon phase.

The best time of day to photograph the Milky Way is usually between 00:00 and 5:00 on nights with a new moon during the Milky Way season.

2020 Milky Way Calendar

To nail down the best hours for photographing the Milky Way, I recommend using a specific 2020 Milky Way calendar for your location. In these calendars you’ll find:

  • Milky Way hours
  • Milky Way visibility
  • Moon phase
  • Moonrise and Moonset
  • Sunrise and Sunset
  • The angle between the Milky Way and the horizon
  • Best days to photograph the Milky Way in 2020

This is an example of our Milky Way calendar:

milky way calendar example capturetheatlas

Capture the Atlas 2020 Milky Way Calendar

Since these values change depending on the location (latitude and longitude), we’ve created Milky Way calendars for 14 different places. These calendars will also give you an estimated value if you’re planning to shoot the Milky Way in a similar latitude:

  • USA (East Coast)
  • USA (West Coast)
  • Canada (West Coast)
  • Sydney
  • Spain (Peninsula)
  • Spain (Canary Islands)
  • Italy (Dolomites)
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
  • Bolivia
  • Patagonia
  • Bali
  • Mexico

You can download the Milky Way calendars for 2020 here:

GET THE CALENDAR WITH THE BEST DATES TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MILKY WAY

In addition, we will send you the PDF guide to photographing the Milky Way

milky way calendar

2. Find the best places to photograph the Milky Way

Once you know the best time to photograph the Milky Way, you must consider one of the most important factors for a Milky Way location: light pollution. This will be critical for deciding where to photograph the Milky Way.

Just as with stargazing, darkness is the fundamental requirement to see and photograph the Milky Way and the Galactic Center. The darker the location, the better the conditions to take images of the Milky Way with a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

Nowadays, total darkness has become increasingly difficult to find, and there are just a few places near metropolitan areas without heavy light pollution.

To find dark places for Milky Way photography while getting an idea of the area’s light pollution, have a look at the following light pollution map, where you’ll see the most “polluted” areas in different colors.

Light pollution map Milky Way photography

Ligh pollution Map

Green, yellow, orange, and red indicate a progressive increase in light pollution. Photographing the Milky Way will be very difficult in the green and yellow areas, and almost impossible within the orange and red areas.

Blue indicates areas with an acceptable night sky visibility, while grey/black indicate the best places for Milky Way photography.

Best places to photograph the Milky Way in the northern hemisphere

Considering location accessibility, which leaves out remote areas such as the Arctic and Siberian regions, the Northern Hemisphere is generally very populated, making it challenging to find skies free of light pollution in many regions like Europe and the US East Coast.

Across the Northern Hemisphere, some of the best night skies can be found in Canada, the western half of the United States, Northern Africa, and in unpopulated regions of Asia, such as Mongolia or Western China.

The Canary Islands and Hawaii are a couple of ideal islands in the Northern Hemisphere to photograph the Milky Way, as they are free of light pollution.

photograph milky way with moon exposure to photograph milky way

Milky Way in Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona, USA

Best places to photograph the Milky Way in the southern hemisphere

In the Southern Hemisphere, there are many perfect locations to photograph the Milky Way, due to low population density. However, many of them, such as Antarctica or the Australian outback, are quite inaccessible.

Some of the best places to photograph the Milky Way in the Southern Hemisphere are found in South America, such as the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Chilean Patagonia, Argentina, and the mountainous regions of Peru and Colombia. On other continents, you can also enjoy great starry skies in Namibia, Madagascar, as well as in large areas of Australia and New Zealand.

How to photograph the Milky Way in the Southern Hemisphere

Milky Way at Stockton Dunes, Australia

3. Use a camera with good high ISO performance

Technique is crucial, but the camera plays a key role in Milky Way photography.

Having the best camera for Milky Way photography is essential to succeed in your Galactic Center photography session.

Today, most digital cameras on the market can photograph the Milky Way in decent quality. It’s totally up to you and your goals whether you want to use an entry-level or an advanced camera:

  • If you’re planning to just do some casual Milky Way photography, you can take decent images of the Milky Way with an entry-level camera if you use the right settings that you’ll find below.
  • If your goal is to have the best Milky Way images, capturing as much detail as possible while keeping the digital noise under control, you should go for a more advanced digital camera; preferably a Full-frame camera with a high pixel pitch (Pixel density size), since bigger pixels are more efficient for shooting in low-light conditions.

You can see more information and a list of models according to your skills, budget, and goals on our guide to cameras for shooting the Milky Way.

4. Pick a fast lens

As regards camera lenses for Milky Way photography, these are equally as, and sometimes even more, important than the cameras. The best lenses for taking pictures of the Milky Way are generally bright wide-angle lenses.

In terms of focal length, you can also use a longer focal length to capture some details of the Milky Way, but to shoot the entire Milky Way, it’s easier and faster to use wide-angle lenses.

Prime lenses are also better than zoom lenses for shooting the Milky Way. These are less versatile, but if you want to invest in a top lens for Milky Way photography, I’d check a fast-prime lens.

how to photograph the Milky Way lenses

Sigma 14 mm 1.8; A wide-angle fast prime lens, and one of the best for Milky Way photography

As for the quality, you can photograph the Milky Way with a kit lens, but you’ll see the best results using a specific faster lens. I created a comprehensive list of lenses for shooting the Milky Way, where you can check if your camera and lenses are suitable for Milky Way photography.

If you’re planning to photograph the Milky Way but don’t want to spend a fortune on cameras and lenses, or you simply want to test the gear before buying it, renting is a great option.

In my case, I always rent with this company, (here you can check the best camera rental companies in the World) as there’s some gear I only use on certain occasions, and, at the end of the day, it’s cheaper to rent rather than buy and use occasionally. They deliver within the US, and you can get a 15% discount using the code  ATLAS 15.

photography gear camera and lenses rental

5. Mount your camera on a sturdy tripod

One of the key steps for shooting the Milky Way before adjusting the settings is to mount your camera on your tripod.

The first step is to make sure you’re using a sturdy and reliable tripod. Milky Way is a type of long exposure photography where you’ll be using a slow shutter speed, so it’s fundamental to avoid camera vibrations to take sharp images.

You can follow some basic rules, like keeping your tripod low when possible, don’t extend the center column, extend the leg sections from top to bottom, or add your camera bag as a counterweight if your tripod has a tripod stabilizer weight hook.

Best steps to photograph the Milky Way

Mount your camera on a sturdy tripod

You can learn more tripod tips for stabilization in our guide to take sharper photos.

6. Adjust the best Milky Way camera settings

Before photographing the Milky Way with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, I recommend adjusting the following camera settings:

  • Screen brightness: The first step is to turn down your LCD screen brightness. It will help you avoid underexposing your Milky Way photograph.
  • Shoot in RAW: This is mandatory in Milky Way Photography. Shoot in RAW to capture as much detail as possible, both in the highlights and the shadows.
  • Metering mode: In stars and Milky Way photography, my favorite light meter mode is the matrix mode.

*You can also photograph the Milky Way with an iPhone or with advanced smartphones, but these settings are aimed at how to photograph the Milky Way with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera.

photograph the milky way settings

Set the best Milky Way camera settings

7. Set a wide aperture

Once you have the basic camera settings and you can see the Milky Way galaxy in the sky, the real challenge comes: choosing the best exposure settings for Milky Way photography.

To photograph the Milky Way, you need to use the settings that allow your camera to capture as much light as possible while using the right exposure time, so the stars are captured as sharp spots and not as trails.

Don’t forget that to take quality images of the Milky Way, you should also try to have the lowest amount of digital noise in your photographs. (+ tips on our article on camera settings for digital noise reduction)

best aperture to photograph the milky way

Milky Way captured using an f/2.8 aperture

To find the perfect balance, you need to adjust the best Milky Way settings on your cameraapertureISO, and shutter speed. For taking photographs of the Milky Way, the easiest setting is the aperture.

As mentioned before, the goal is to capture as much light as possible, which translates into using the widest aperture on your lens.

Aperture setting to photograph the Milky Way

Use the widest aperture on your lens

My suggestion is to use at least an f/2.8 aperture or lower if possible. If your lens has maximum aperture values like f/4 or f/5.6, don’t worry – you’ll still be able to take images of the Milky Way with your DSLR camera.

8. Adjust the ISO settings

Choosing the best ISO in Milky Way photography is one of the most common challenges.

The ISO is one of the most important parameters in night photography; it’ll allow you to capture the right exposure using a short shutter speed, which is the end goal when shooting Milky Way photos.

However, this parameter isn’t as easy to adjust as the aperture, since the right ISO for Milky Way photography depends on different factors:

  • External lights: Like the moonlight or artificial lights. The stronger the lights in the scene, the lower the ISO you should use to shoot the Milky Way. When there’s a considerable amount of external light, my ISO usually ranges between 800 and 3200. This depends on more conditions, but it can be a good starting point.

Below you’ll find more information on how to photograph the Milky Way with a full moon and with light pollution.

  • Your camera: Generally, advanced cameras with full-frame sensors can adjust to a higher ISO in Milky Way photography, normally between 3200 and 6400.

Entry-level cameras with crop sensors are more sensitive to high ISOs, so if you’re using one of these models, I don’t recommend raising your ISO above 3200. (You can learn more about why camera sensor size matters here).

Digital noise is related to ISO. To take sharp and noise-free images of the Milky Way, I suggest reading our article on digital noise reduction. If there’s already noise in your Milky Way images and you want to fix them, use any of the best noise reduction software.

Best ISO for Milky Way photography

ISO settings for photographing the Milky Way

9. Use a rule to calculate the best shutter speed 

The most important setting for Milky Way Photography is the shutter speed.

To take quality pictures of the Milky Way, you have to capture sharp stars and not star trails, which happens when you take longer exposures.

The max. exposure time for shooting the Milky Way is determined by your camera sensor, megapixels, and focal length.

If you’re using wide-angle lenses, the shutter speed usually ranges between 15 and 30 seconds, but to know the best shutter speed for Milky Way photography, use one of the following rules:

  • The 500 rule: This is the most popular rule to calculate the shutter speed when shooting the Milky Way with a DSLR. According to this rule:

500/focal length = maximum time to have sharp stars

Example: If we are shooting with a Nikon lens 14-24 mm f2’8 at 14 mm, the 500 rule will give us:

500/14mm = 35.7 seconds

Even though this rule can be a good reference point, my advice is to take the 500 rule with a pinch of salt.

The 500 rule in Milky Way photography and other similar rules like the 400 and 600 rules are no longer accurate, especially with modern camera sensors that are designed with more megapixels.

  • The NPF rule: This rule uses a more complex formula, but it’s much more precise than the above rules to calculate the Milky Way shutter speed. In this case, my advice is not to bother with numbers and formulas. Just type your camera model and focal length into the Photopills app, and you’ll see the best exposure time for taking pictures of the Milky Way. As you can see in the example below, the maximum exposure time to photograph sharp stars as spots shooting at 14mm and f/2.8 is 16.45 seconds according to the NPF rule, which makes a big difference from the 36″ of the 500 rule.
Best Milky Way planner app

NPF rule vs. 500 rule in the photopills app

In case you used a slightly slower shutter speed than you should, you can try to improve the sharpness of the stars using a piece of software to fix blurred images. I always use Topaz Sharpen AI.

10. Focus on the Milky Way

The most common mistake in Milky Way photography is not setting the focus properly. Although setting the focus for Milky Way correctly is not difficult, if you get very excited, it’s easy to forget about the focus.

How to focus on Milky Way photography

Out of focus Milky Way shot

To avoid this issue and take sharp images of the Milky Way, pay attention. My suggestion is to follow these Milky Way focusing steps:

  • If possible, try to adjust the focus to infinity before the Milky Way session using the daylight. Just focus manually or automatically on any far subject on the horizon.
  • If you have to focus at night, use the live view mode on your camera, zoom in on a distant light, like a bright star or the moon, and adjust the focus ring of your lens manually until you find the sharpest focus. (You’ll see the star as a spot).

You can also do this step using the automatic focus, but most cameras struggle to focus in low light conditions, so it’s better to do it manually.

  • Whether you focus using manual or auto, once the focus is ready, switch the focus mode to manual on your camera and don’t tweak the focus ring during the rest of the Milky Way session, unless you need to use a different lens or focal length.
  • The last step for focusing in Milky Way photography is to open your image on your camera and zoom in on the stars to double-check if the focus is correct.

In my workflow, I don’t do this with every image I take, but rather, when I move from one location to another, since sometimes, the focus ring moves involuntarily.

Many photographers focus at the hyperfocal distance in Milky Way photography, but if you want to achieve the maximum sharpness in the stars, I don’t recommend this method.

how to focus for shooting the Milky Way

Set the focus manually to infinity

Check our tips to take tack-sharp images and our guide on how to focus in photography if you want to get tack-sharp photos.

11. Check the histogram

To check that you’ve used the right Milky Way settings, open your Milky Way image on your LCD screen.

After zooming in on the stars and verifying that everything is in focus as we mentioned above, check the histogram on your Milky Way shot. Some factors like external lights or the camera brightness can trick your eye when you’re shooting at night, so the best way to ensure that you’re taking good photographs of the Milky Way with the right exposure is by using your histogram. You can learn how to read the histogram here.

Milky Way photography histogram

Check the histogram after photographing the Milky Way

12. Edit your Milky Way photo

The last step to get your Milky shot is to edit your Milky Way photo using any editing/processing software.

Milky Way post-processing is something very personal and a matter of style and taste; some people prefer doing a simple Milky Way edit, while others prefer to take an artistic approach doing in-depth processing.

In any case and, disregarding your editing skills, there are some basic editing adjustments that you’ll need to do to your Milky Way image, like compensating the lights and shadows, adjusting the right white balance and color, refocusing your raw file, and other basic but important adjustments.

Milky Way editing in Lightroom

Edit your Milky Way images to get the best final photos – Basic Milky Way editing in Lightroom

Other tips to learn how to photograph the Milky Way

Beyond the best steps to photograph the Milky Way explained above, Milky Way photography involves particular challenges, like learning the tools to plan your shot, photographing with light pollution or with the moon, etc.

To help you take your Milky Way images to the next level, below you’ll find a series of tips for shooting the Milky Way:

How to plan your milky way photography shoot

Photographing the Milky Way requires not only good gear and technique, but also great planning.

As we explained above, It’s essential to plan your session and to know when and where to shoot the Milky Way to increase your chances of success.

Milky Way photography planning

Plan ahead where and when to shoot the Milky Way

Planning your Milky Way shot with a Milky Way app is perhaps the best advice for taking great images of our galaxy.

With a Milky Way app, it’s easier to find the Milky Way. You can check in advance the Milky Way direction so you can photograph the Milky Way, as well as the elevation of the Galactic Center over the horizon. For all this, the best Milky Way photography app is, without a doubt, Photopills.

app photopills milky way photography

Using this mobile app, you can check the Milky Way’s visibility (from 1 to 10) for a single date, considering the moon phase. However, keep in mind that this Milky Way app doesn’t consider light pollution or cloud coverage in the location.

Milky Way photography planning

Left: Milky Way and Galactic center // Right: Milky Way visibility

After this step, you can check the Galactic Center visibility section (GC), where you’ll see:

  •  The time when the Galactic Center visibility starts and ends.
  • The direction of the Milky Way, displaying its arch through different dots. (Bigger dots indicate the Milky Way core).
  • The number of degrees that the Galactic Center will rise over the horizon. This elevation is calculated through the location of the Milky Way dots in the circumferences around the locator. If it is at 90º, the Milky Way will be placed vertically, whereas if it is at 0º, it’ll be completely horizontal.
  • The lines where the Galactic Center will rise above the horizon and the moment when it will decline, marked in light grey and dark grey.
Milky Way planner

Left: Galactic center visibility // Right: Start & finish galactic center visibility

Once you are in a specific location, you can try the augmented reality mode (AR Night), where you can see live the direction to photograph the Milky Way and the Galactic Center.

how to photograph the full band of the milky way

Photopills Augmented Reality mode

Also, I suggest checking the weather forecast in advance to get an idea of the cloud coverage. You can use sites like Windy.

How to photograph the milky way with light pollution

Photographing the Milky Way in light-polluted skies is a real challenge.

If you want to shoot the Milky Way in a city, your chances to capture the galaxy are very low, since the city lights won’t allow you to see more than the moon and a few bright stars.

If you want to photograph the Milky Way with light pollution, try to go to the darkest place around, like a big park with trees. Secondly, don’t raise the ISO too much, since you’ll blow out the highlights of your image if there are external lights like streetlights. Also, you can use a higher aperture if there are powerful external lights.

How to photograph the Milky Way with light pollution

How to photograph the Milky Way with light pollution

how to photograph the milky way with a full moon

The other tricky situation is photographing the Milky Way with a full moon.

Photographing the Milky Way with the moon in your compositions is possible, and while you won’t capture as much detail of the Milky Way and the core as with a new moon, the surrounding landscape and foreground will be more illuminated, providing a further depth in the scene.

However, it’s the same as with city lights: strong moonlight will erase the stars from the sky. Under a full moon, it’s almost impossible to take pictures of the Milky Way.

If you want to try to photograph the Milky Way in a full moon, you can follow the steps described above for city lights, since raising your ISO will blow out the highlights of your image.

photographing the milky way during full moon

How to photograph the Milky Way with a full moon

How to capture the Milky Way arch/bow

When photographing the arch of the Milky Way, the first step to follow is planning the photograph by considering the time of year and location.

Depending on the time of year, you can photograph the Milky Way bow as follows:

  • From the end of March to the end of May

The Milky Way arch is located above the horizon, and a panorama of vertical images will be enough to photograph the entire Milky Way bow.

how to photograph the milky way arch

Milky Way arch in June in New Jersey, 7 vertical shots

  • From June to August

The Milky Way and the Galactic Center will be more vertical to us, and therefore, it will be more complex to photograph the Milky Way arch.

how to photograph the milky way bow

Milky Way bow in August in the Mojave desert. Vertorama composed of 2 Rows with 6 vertical images

The best technique for these situations is to take a “Vertorama.” This type of photography consists of taking different photographs from top to bottom and from left to right, forming a kind of mosaic. This technique requires more intense post-processing.

Note: If you’re photographing the Milky Way arch, it’s important to manually set the white balance in both panoramas and vertoramas so there is no difference between the shots.

How to photograph the Milky Way F.A.Q

As additional tips, below you’ll find the most common questions related to Milky Way photography:

The best time to photograph the Milky Way in most of the Northern and Southern Hemisphere goes from early March to late October when the galactic center is visible. However, it’s possible to photograph the Milky Way throughout the year even if the galactic bulge is not visible

The best shutter speed for shooting the Milky Way ranges between 10 and 30 seconds depending on the focal length. The longer the focal length, the shorter should be the shutter speed.

A popular option is the 500 rule. However, for more precision, it’s recommended to follow the NPF rule. You can use any Milky Way app to calculate the maximum shutter speed for your Milky Way shots.

The best ISO for shooting the Milky Way usually ranges between 800 and 6400. The right ISO depends on many factors like light pollution, the moonlight, and your camera gear, among others.

Using generic lenses, you should use f/2.8 or your widest aperture in order to capture as much light as possible in your Milky Way image. For specific Astrophotography lenses with f/1.8 or lower, you can close your aperture down to f/2.8 or f/4 to achieve more sharpness.

For Shooting the Milky Way, the basics you need are a digital camera, a fast lens, a sturdy tripod, and a remote shutter.

Photographing the Milky Way in some small cities is possible but the Milky Way will be fainter. In heavily-populated and polluted cities you can’t see or photograph the Milky Way.

 

Summary: 10 steps to photograph the Milky Way

To summarize this article, check these step-by-step guide to photographing the Milky Way:

  1. Keep in mind the elements you want to shoot. Scout the location before taking the photographs. Always check for possible light pollution in the area before your session. Stay out of heavily light-polluted areas.
  1. Depending on the type of composition you want to shoot, choose the best time of year (March-May → Arches, May-July → Diagonal, August-September → Vertical).
  1. Plan your shoot on days of the month with less moonlight. (Follow our Milky Way Calendars).
  1. Check the weather forecast before going out to take the picture. Cloudy skies will keep you from finding the Milky Way.
  1. Once in the location, confirm the direction of the Milky Way using the “Augmented Reality Night” mode in the Photopills app.
  1. Reduce the brightness of the screen on your camera to avoid underexposing your photos.
  1. Make sure the focus is correct before you start shooting the Milky Way.
  1. Set the best Milky Way settings:
  1. Edit and process your photographs if you want to highlight all the details inside the Milky Way, especially the core.
  1. Look for new locations and unleash your imagination. The creative possibilities in Milky Way photography are endless!
Shutter speed to photograph the Milky Way

Follow all the steps and tips of this guide to succeed in your Milky Way photography!

I hope this Milky Way photography guide helps you succeed in taking breathtaking images of the Milky Way! If you need a little inspiration, here is our selection of the best Milky Way photographs taken by some of the best landscape photographers in the world.

Feel free to leave any questions in the comments related to Milky Way photography!

Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends










Submit
Home | PHOTOGRAPHY - PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDES | How to photograph the Milky Way and the Galactic Center

COFOUNDER & PHOTO TOUR LEADER

Dan is a professional nature and landscape photographer, photography educator, and co-founder of Capture the Atlas. His base camp is in Philadelphia, USA, but he spends long periods of time exploring and photographing new locations around the world.

Apart from shooting the Milky Way, the Northern Lights, and any landscape that can stir powerful emotions, he enjoys leading photo tours to some of the most remote places on Earth.

You can find more about Dan here.

Don't miss out...

109 thoughts on “How to photograph the Milky Way and the Galactic Center

    • Dan Zafra says:

      Thanks Rex!

      The Milky Way visibility changes every year. We don’t have the 2021 Milky Way Calendar yet but it’ll ready in the coming months!

      Happy shooting and clear skies!
      Dan

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hey Ronina,

      Some advanced smartphones are capable of shooting the Milky Way, but don’t expect the same quality as with an advanced compact camera or a DSLR.

      Best,
      Dan

  1. Dwight Taylor says:

    Thanks for your article! I am planning a trip to the Pawnee National Grasslands for June 21 this year, which is a dark skies area. This will be my first serious milky way trip, and your article is very helpful in planning. I will be reviewing this more and the links you have provided. Now I have to learn Photopills! There is always something new!

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      That looks like a very exciting trip Dwight! I’m happy to see you found our Milky Way article useful! Using Photopills for MW planning is easier than it seems, just take it easy and let me know if there’s something I can help with 😉

      Happy shooting!
      Dan

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Rodger, We’re working on new calendars but won’t have one specific for central US until 2021. However, you can use any Calendar for another location as long as it’s similar in latitude (Just consider the time difference). Depending on your location either the East Coast or West Coast Milky Way Calendars could work well for you.

      Happy shooting,
      Dan

  2. Marta says:

    Thanks so much for this. In the middle of all of the Coronavirus craziness and being in lock down, I am going to surprise my 8 year old son by waking him up in the middle of the night to check this out! I hope its a night in Montauk he will not forget!

  3. Barry Sharoff says:

    Dan, thanks so much for your Milky Way Calendar. Because we’ll be going to the Grand Canyon in April right at the time of good Milky Way viewing, I have a few questions regarding your calendar:

    1) In the second column (moon), many of the times have a +1 the time. What does this mean? I couldn’t find a note concerning this on the calendar page. (If I missed it, I apologize.)

    2) Are your times adjusted for Daylight Savings time, or do we have to make that adjustment ourselves? Arizona, of course, is not on Daylight Savings Time.

    3) According to a couple of other apps I looked at, April 19 is actually a better night for Milky Way viewing and photographing than the 18th due to the effects of moonlight. Could you please check that?

    Thanks so much.

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hey Barry,

      Thanks so much for your comment! Please find below the response to your questions:

      1) When the moon has a +1, it means that it sets the next day. The Milky Way Calendars take as a reference each Saturday of the year, so any time +1 means that the event is taking place the next day (Sunday).

      2) The Daylight savings are considered for those specific locations, but you should consider the DL savings of other locations if you plan to use the Calendar there. A good example is, as you mention, Arizona, since they don’t apply the Daylight Savings time, and there’ll be an hour of difference during a few months every year.

      3) As I mentioned before, we only took all the Saturdays of the year as a reference, but please bear in mind that if a day is a good day to photograph the Milky Way, the previous/next day will also be good days to shoot the Milky Way. In your case, 17th, 18th and 19th of April are very good days to photograph the Milky Way in the Grand Canion area.

      I had the opportunity of shooting the MW there in 2017 and it was mesmerizing, deep dark skies where the stars shine beautifully.

      Hope you have a nice trip and can take breathtaking images of the Milky Way!

      Enjoy your trip,

      Dan

  4. Conor says:

    Hi Dan,
    Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately, I don’t have a better way. I was looking into putting some code together to do this but I’m currently stuck on the Milky Way part! If I figure it out I’ll let you know! for Fair play for putting all this information together.
    Thanks,
    Conor

  5. Conor says:

    Hi Dan,

    This article and calendars are brilliant! Thank you so much for making these excellent resources available. Just wondering where you got the galactic centre visibility information from for your calendars? Are they manually created from the PhotoPills app?

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Conor,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Yes, they are. I spent a weekend taking them from PhotoPills to create our calendars. If you know a better way to do it let me know. I’m already shaking to think about creating next year’s calendars LOL

      Dan

  6. Gordon Stubbs says:

    my intention is to visit Norfolk Island specifically for capturing the Milky Way. It is approximately on the same latitude as New Zealand. I know its a big ask, but any help or advice would be greatly appreciated

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Gordon,

      For that location, you can use our Milky Way Calendar for Australia, since it’s the closer latitude (Just consider the time difference).

      The Norfolk island look like a pretty remote place, never saw a Milky Way picture from there before, so please, share your images with us once you’re back from your trip!

      Happy shooting and enjoy your trip!

      Dan

  7. Doug B says:

    Thank you for the page and calendars.. you combined much of the info I had been wondering about for quite some time.

    For West coast, I wish you had options for various latitudes, as I assume the info for 47-45° might be rather different from 37° (Death Valley).

    To make it easy to remember, I wish your Galactic Center Position column would also note.. SE… S… SW as applicable for time of year.

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Doug,

      Thanks very much for your message and your suggestion as regards our Milky Way Calendars, I’ll definitely take note of writing the coordinates for next year 😉

      As regards the US, you can perfectly use the calendars at other locations as long as you’re at a similar latitude. That means that you can take Calendars for other places around the world and use them in the US; For instance, the Canary Islands Calendar is valid for shooting in Florida, or the Toluca (Mexico) Calendars is perfect for Hawai (Just consider the time difference). We have +14 locations around the world so I’m sure there is a calendar for your latitude regardless of your state!

      Happy shooting!

      Dan

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi James,

      We don’t have any calendar for New Zealand yet but it’s on our list for future calendars.

      In the meantime, please feel free to use our Sidney Calendar since it’s the most approximate calendar to NZ. (Just consider the time difference).

      Happy shooting!

      Dan

    • Nate says:

      I’m in Idaho so I don’t venture too far from home. 11 miles away, I can get some pretty dark sky

    • nyx says:

      Hi!

      Do you have a calendar for the Philippines? I want to share it to my group as well so we can plan a group shoot.

      Thank you

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Nate,

      I’m afraid we don’t have any calendar for the Philippines but I took note for future Milky Way Calendars 😉

      In the meantime, you can use our Calendar for Toluca (Mexico), which is at a similar latitude to the Philippines (Just consider the time difference).

      Thanks for sharing it with your group, and have a happy shooting!

      Dan

  8. Troy Smith says:

    Hi Dan,
    I have been trying to shoot the Milky Way.
    I have a Cannon T6i with 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 lens and a VCivitar 0.43x wide angle. I have a nice dark Rural park 20 miles from city lights to shoot in. I have a good sturdy tripod. with the lens at 18mm my max is F3.5 and using 500 rule for the cannon APS-C sensor (18×1.6=28.8) (500/28.8=17.xx seconds)

    my camera goes to ISO 6400, I tried ISO 6400, F3.5 at 15 seconds and I get nice starry sky pictures, but can only roughly see the cloud of the galaxy arm with no color saturation. Is this just the limits of my equipment or is there something other technique wise I can do to get the shot?

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Troy,

      Probably you are close to the limits of your gear. With those settings, I bet there is also some digital noise, since pushing the camera to ISO 6400 always trigger some noise unless you are shooting with one of the top-notched new generation cameras.
      I used to have a similar camera/lens as yours and even though the gear was fine for shooting all the light situations during the day, at night I struggled to take detailed noise-free images.

      The only technique you can make is doing a double exposure. One for the sky at higher ISO like 6400 and one for the ground at a lower ISO and longer exposure time. Then you have to merge both on PS. The other technique is to stack several images as explained on this article.

      Please let me know if there is any other way I can help.

      Kind regards,

      Dan

  9. Judy says:

    Hi Dan,
    Is there a calendar I can refer to for Mt Bromo, East Java, Indonesia? It’s quite a popular spot for milky way viewing in Asia. We are going on 30th July. Hope to have a good shot.
    Thanks in advance for your reply.
    Cheers!

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Judy,

      We don’t have a East Java calendar this year but there is other people asking for it so we will create it next year.

      In the meantime, you can download and use the one for Quito considering the time difference. The best days for photographing the Milky way will be the same ?

      Best,

      Dan

  10. Steve Robinson says:

    Hi,

    I’d like a calendar for +/- 45 deg N lat and +/1 109 deg W long. Great idea by the way. Also I follow you on IG.

  11. Capture the Atlas says:

    Hi Ahmad,

    Thanks for your message.

    We haven’t any Milky Way calendar for Egypt but will add it up to the list of future calendars.

    for the time being, you can use the one for Madrid considering the time difference.

    Kind regards,

    Dan

  12. Michael says:

    Hi Guy’s

    great content could you produce a 2019 Milky Way calendar for Alps (big area I know) or tell me how I can add or detract time due to the Longitude and Latitude.

    Thank’s
    Michael

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Michael,

      We had many Calendars in the queue, but the Alps sounds like a good idea for the future, as far as I know, there are great skies over there.

      In the meantime, I suggest using the closest one, and this is Madrid, Spain.
      Just consider the time difference between Madrid and the Alps location where you are shooting.
      Most of the best days to shoot the Milky Way of the year will be the same 😉

      Thanks for your message,

      Dan

  13. Danial says:

    Hi my friend:)
    Can you make Milky Way calendar for Iran, please?
    Our time is +3:30 UTC and Your calendar of 2018 is so useful for me, So i’m taken best shot from galactic center :-*
    Thanks.

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Danial,
      We haven’t made any Calendar for Iran but feel free to use the one for Madrid, Spain, since it is a similar latitude.
      Just take into account the time difference between Iran and Spain.
      Thanks for your feedback and hope the calendar helps to take great pictures in 2019! 😉

      Best,
      Dan

  14. Joseph says:

    Hi can u make a calendar for Taiwan? Will be hiking hehuanshan mountain (Taichung) and not sure when will there be Milky Way there. Thanks

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Joseph,

      I am afraid we don’t have any Calendar for Taiwan.
      If this is a single trip, I suggest downloading the App Photopills, where you can check the best days to shoot the Milky Way in Taiwan and even the augmented reality mode with the position of the Milky Way on the sky.

      All the best on your trip!

      Dan

  15. Diego Muñoz says:

    Hey! Your advices are very complete! I really loved it!
    A question, Do you have one calendar for Mexico? Or which one I can use?

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Diego, Please use the one is closer to your latitude. If you are in northern Mexico, use the one for Moab, and if you are in Southern Mexico, use the one for Quito.

      We will create new calendars next year and hope to have one specific for Mexico.

      Have a nice day,
      Ascen.

  16. Bryce says:

    Dan,
    I live in Colorado. Do you feel that there is significant variation if I use the West coast USA version of your calendar versus trying to find a localized version?

    Appreciate your insights.

    Bryce

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Bryce,

      You can perfectly use the West Coast USA version as Colorado is at the same latitude as Utah. Just consider the slight time difference between your location and Moab.

      Hope the Calendar helps with your Milky Way planning this season 😉

      Best,

      Dan

  17. Greg says:

    Can I suggest that you add (300 rule for APC cameras) in brackets wherever you have the 500 rule statement. I found that 300 is much more accurate than 500 for my Pentax 200d and K70 cameras. I found that I would get motion blur at 20seconds using my 18-55mm kit lens at 18mm, but at 15seconds all good.

    Otherwise great article.

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Greg,

      Thanks very much for your comment and for your suggestion.

      I know the 500 rule is not the most accurate but just wanted to provide this rule as a general idea.

      Best things is always testing your camera and lenses as, especially with new cameras, the 500 rule is becoming less and less accurate.

      We will definitely update and add this to the article.

      Thanks again,

      Dan

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks very much for your message.

      We had another request for Malaysia and it is already on the list for a future Milky Way Calendar.

      In the meantime, you can download and use the one for Quito considering the time difference. The best days for photographing the Milky way will be the same 😉

      Best,

      Dan

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Kaneko,

      Thanks very much for your message and your idea of creating a Milky Way Calendar for Japan.

      We will take note for a future Calendar. In the meantime, I suggest downloading and taking as a reference the one in Madrid considering the time difference, as both are at a similar latitude.

      Best,

      Dan

  18. mehrdad helagh says:

    hi
    i am planning to go to SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA on 26 Nov 2019 (new moon)
    would someone kindly give me the milky way calendar for late nov.

    highly appreciated

    mehrdad

  19. Sheri says:

    We will be traveling to Machu Picchu the end of June – 1st week of July 2019.

    Do you have a Milky Way Calendar for that area?

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Sheri,

      I am afraid we don’t have any Calendar for Machu Picchu/Peru.

      If you are visiting this area for a few days you can see the best days and hours on the app Photopills 😉

      All the best during your trip!

      Dan

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Janet,

      You can take London as the closest Calendar to Norway but please, bear in mind that Norway is at a higher latitude than London and the days might vary significantly.

      Depending on the area of Norway where you live in some areas the Milky Way Core is barely visible during most of the year, so I suggest taking also this in consideration.

      Best,

      Dan

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks very much for your comment and feedback.

      We have a big list of requested Calendars but will include Malaysia in the list for future Calendars 😉

      Meanwhile, as Malaysia is very close to the equator, I suggest using our Quito Calendar considering the time difference between Quito and your city, the best days to photograph the Milky Way during the year will be the same.

      All the best for the Milky Way season!

      Dan

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hey!
      I would use the Milky Way Calendar for London instead since the latitude is more like England than Utah. The best days to photograph the Milky Way will be the same but the hours will change a little.

      Please let me know if you have any question!
      Thanks,
      Dan.

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Thiago,

      Thanks for your message!

      There are actually more petitions from South America but in the Spanish Version of the article.

      We will work in different locations for South America and will let you know 😉

  20. Xuan says:

    Precioso, completo y didáctico artículo, Dan. Enorme trabajazo!! Enhorabuena.
    Nos agradaría poder contar con el calendario para Asturias, zona Somiedo o Picos de Europa.
    Gracias!! Un cordial saludo

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hola Xuan,
      Muchas gracias por tu comentario. Me alegra que te sea útil.
      Para Asturias debes utilizar el calendario de la vía láctea que hemos creado para Madrid. Al final la diferencia va a ser por minutos. De todos modos te recomiendo que te pases por el artículo en castellano.

      Un saludo compañero,
      Dan.

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Tom!

      Thanks for your message.

      We didn’t create any Calendar for central Europe so Germany would be a nice reference point.

      We will take note to consider it as a likely location for a MW Calendar!

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Leigh,

      I’m glad you like it!

      We are already working on a 2019 Australian Calendar with the best days to shoot the Milky Way and will send it to you as soon as it is ready ?

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Rach,

      Thanks for your message.

      We are already working on a 2019 Australian Calendar with the best days to photograph the Milky Way and will send it to you as soon as it is ready ?

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Mattias,

      Thanks very much for your message!

      We didn’t pick any location at a high latitude as the Milky Way is barely visible there during most of the year.

      London is the northernmost Calendar we made and as you can see it is just a few days a year.

      We will take of Sweden anyway for a future Calendar 😉

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Peter,

      We are working in Calendars for the equator.

      Will take note of Kenya and will let you know as soon as there is any update about a Kenian Calendar or another location at the same latitude you could use 😉

      Dan

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Kieth,

      Thanks for your message.

      We are already working on a 2019 Australian Calendar with the best days to photograph the Milky Way and will send it to you as soon as it is ready ?

  21. Luz Estella Yepes de Echeverría says:

    Por favor: un calendario para Centroamérica. Yo vivo en Guatemala!!
    Muchas gracias!!!!!

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Tarzy,

      Thanks for your message.

      We are already working on a 2019 Australian Calendar with the best time to photograph the Milky Way and will send it to you as soon as it is ready ?

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Robbie,

      Thanks for your message.

      We are already working on a Calendar with the best days to shoot the Milky Way in Australia and will send it to you as soon as it is ready 😉

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your message.

      We are already working on a Calendar with the best days to photograph the Milky Way in Australia and will send it to you as soon as it is ready 😉

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Liz,

      Thanks for your message.

      We are already working on a Calendar to show the best days to shoot the Milky Way in Australia and will send it to you as soon as it is ready 😉

  22. Kris Turner says:

    Hi guys. Would you be able to create a Milky Way calendar for Australia please. I know I can access the info in many different ways however having a comprehensive chart which will allow to glance and see the best times will be much better.
    Thank you

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Joni,

      Thanks for your message!

      We didn’t pick any location at a high latitude as the Milky Way is barely visible there during most of the year.

      London is the northernmost Calendar we made and as you can see it is just a few days a year.

      Will take note of Finland anyway for the future 😉

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Hayden,

      Thanks for your message.

      We are already working on a 2019 Australian Calendar with the best days to shoot the Milky Way and will send it to you as soon as it is ready ?

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for your message.

      We are already working on a 2019 Australian Calendar with the best days to photograph the Milky Way and will send it to you as soon as it is ready 😉

    • Jen Nickelson says:

      Thank you for the calendar. Can you make one for Jasper Park in Alberta, Canada?

    • Capture the Atlas says:

      Thanks for your message Jen,

      We don’t have any calendar for Jasper and the Canadian Rockies is a place in our list for a future Calendar.

      for the time being, feel free to use our London Milky Way Calendar, as it is located at a similar latitude. Simply consider the time difference between the UK and Jasper 😉

      Enjoy the Milky Way season!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.