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What Happened to the Galaxy? Milky Way Disappears Above Oregon Coast / Washington Coast; Meteor Showers

Published 05/11/23 at 7:24 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

What Happened to the Galaxy? Milky Way Disappears This Month: Oregon / Washington Coast

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(Portland, Oregon) – There may be a bit of a puzzle for some looking up in the night sky. Something is gone and something is new. If you're on the Oregon coast or Washington coast anytime soon, and skies are clear, you may notice a familiar sight is missing. (Above: Bandon at night, Courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more)

Where on Earth is the Milky Way?

Also, there are some awesome meteor showers right now as well.

It's not just missing from the Washington or Oregon coastlines, it's gone from all the mid-northern latitudes in May, said Portland astronomy expert Jim Todd, from OMSI. That great band of stars, that famed luminous disk, has pulled a little trick of perspective.

“Our Milky Way galaxy lies flat, nearly parallel to the plane of your horizon,” Todd told Oregon Coast Beach Connection.

Throughout May, in the evenings before midnight, Todd said the equator of the Milky Way is wandering the bottom of the horizon. Meanwhile, the North Galactic Pole is standing high above us in the constellation of Berenice's Hair (Coma Berenices).

What Happened to the Galaxy? Milky Way Disappears This Month: Oregon / Washington Coast
Above: Bandon at night, Courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more

Night photographers on the sands may especially be bemoaning its absence. While the glare and the dust of the galaxy are missing in these night skies, Todd said this creates something new for those paying attention.

“The sky beckons you to look at the deep-sky objects beyond the Milky Way,” Todd said. “As seen from the North Galactic Pole, the Sun and the solar system revolve clockwise around the center or nucleus of the Milky Way Galaxy.”

What is the north galactic pole?

According to the website COSMOS - The SAO Encyclopedia of Astronomy: “The NGP lies along a line that passes through the observer and is perpendicular to the galactic equator. At the other end of this line is the south galactic pole with b = -90 degrees.”

Todd explained further:


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“The galactic plane is the plane in which the majority of a disk-shaped galaxy's mass lies. The directions perpendicular to the galactic plane point to the galactic poles. Most often, in actual usage, the terms "galactic plane" and "galactic poles" are used to refer specifically to the plane and poles of the Milky Way, which is the galaxy in which the Earth is located.”

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In all this, there is some other aspect of astronomy as well. Todd said that when the Milky Way does this on May evenings, it comes at the time of year that is halfway between the March equinox and the June solstice.

Also above the coast of Washington and Oregon is the Eta-Aquariids Meteor Shower. It actually peaked a few days ago, but it continues until the end of May. In fact, Oregon Coast Beach Connection spotted a couple of shooting stars late Tuesday evening. One was especially bright, turning a brilliant, neon green.

With the moon waning, these meteors should be easier to spot. Some of them, according to Space.com, will be quite brilliant, like little fireballs.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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