It may seem strange that this last observation could have surprised anyone, but in Galileo’s time people assumed that the Milky Way must be some kind of continuous substance. It truly resembled a streak of spilled liquid—our word “galaxy” comes from the Greek for milk—and it was so bright that it cast shadows on the ground (as did Jupiter and Venus). Today, by contrast, most Americans are unable to see the Milky Way in the sky above the place where they live, and those who can see it are sometimes baffled by its name.
I think that a childhood of Boy Scouting, camping, and hunting has led me to be fascinated by the night sky. I have often laid out under the night sky and watched for shooting stars. The darkest I think I have even seen the sky was in the fall of 2004 on a class trip to Sapelo Island, a barrier island off the Georgia coast.
If you happen to be close to Athens, I think the best place to skywatch is off of Georgia Route 15, between Watkinsville and Greensboro.