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The Milky Way seen in Devon at Soar, South Hams

Can you see the Milky Way in Devon?

Exmoor is a great place to see the Milky Way in Devon. It is a listed Dark Sky however it is possible to see it in other places around Devon as well. Last week we had great conditions in South Devon to view it so I’ve written my method in a blog post.

The Milky Way in Devon stretching high in to the nights sky

How to find the Milky Way in Devon?


There are some very useful resources for finding the Milky Way in the night sky. A good link to start off with is this one, Dark Site Finder. This website demonstrates the sort of light pollution around the world and plots it on a map. Look for areas in green/dark green as these are skies with less light pollution.

As you can see, the South Hams coastline is on par with Exmoor.

What time to try and look

The next thing to factor in is what time to head out. That means, what time in the month and what time of night.

Firstly, the ‘bulb/centre-that’s-not-really-a-centre’ of the Milky Way tends to rise above the horizon in Devon between 2am and 4am. This means that you need to factor in when Astronomical Twilight (when night starts to turn to day) starts. In summer, that is about 3:30am so you actually only have a small window.

Next you need to factor in the moon phase and set time. The moon will illuminate the sky and ruin your chances of seeing the Milky Way. Use this website, Clear Outside to pin point the best conditions to view the Milky Way in Devon. Basically, you want green squares at the top that coincide with the dark strip underneath that is signifying night. Take note of the moon set time on the left hand side.

Where to look in the sky?

So, you’ve worked out when and where you’re going. Now you need to look in the correct direction. In Devon, to see the Milky Way you need to look to the South/South West. Use the App called SkyView and search for the constellation Sagittarius which is near to the brightest part of the Milky Way.

Finally, be prepared.

When I was taking the photo above it was early July yet I still had a down jacket on. It’s cold on a clear night, no matter what season it is. Make sure you have a good head torch AND a back up. If you’re going out to a remote bit of coastline, it is worth becoming familiar with it during daylight to minimise risk but always tell someone where you’re going. Pack a map and compass so that you can still navigate without any visible features and it might also be worth taking a stove to make a hot drink.

Lastly, and this is important. Take a deep breath. The adrenaline will be high and your mind will be playing tricks on you. You might startle some wildlife and you will likely get spooked at least once by the dark. It’s only natural. Just take a moment to gather your thoughts and take your time.

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