Heavenly gift at the New Year, brightest star makes special visit

The brightest star in the nighttime sky will reach its highest point around the stroke of midnight, as Sirius rings in the New Year in heavenly fashion.

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows Sirius A, the brightest star in our nighttime sky, along with its faint, tiny stellar companion, Sirius B. Astronomers overexposed the image of Sirius A [at center] so that the dim Sirius B [tiny dot at lower left] could be seen. The cross-shaped diffraction spikes and concentric rings around Sirius A, and the small ring around Sirius B, are artifacts produced within the telescope's imaging system.

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows Sirius A, the brightest star in our nighttime sky, along with its faint, tiny stellar companion, Sirius B. Astronomers overexposed the image of Sirius A [at center] so that the dim Sirius B [tiny dot at lower left] could be seen. The cross-shaped diffraction spikes and concentric rings around Sirius A, and the small ring around Sirius B, are artifacts produced within the telescope’s imaging system.

Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, is in the constellation Canis Major. It can be found with ease as it’s the brightest star in the sky, but also a straight line down from the easy-to-spot Orion’s belt.

“Orion’s belt always points to Sirius,” notes EarthSky.org. “Look for the star at midnight culmination – highest in the sky around midnight or midway between sunset and sunrise.”

The event happens every New Year’s Eve.

Sam Storch, a retired astronomy professor from New York and member of the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches, made the annual gift into a family event – waking his children every New Year’s Eve to see the peak of Sirius as the neighborhood greeted the the New Year.

“They would hear cheering and laughter from all the other houses around us,” Storch remembers. “How their mouths gaped open. How their eyes gleamed as they went to bed, knowing that something very special had happened.”

From the Northern Hemisphere, look toward the south at midnight. EarthSky reports that the star may even appear to have flashing difference colors.

“This star is so bright that you might not notice it twinkling fiercely, especially from the norther latitudes,” the site says.

Sirius means “glowing” or “scorcher” in Ancient Greek. It is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. Sirius is nicknamed the Dog Star because it is part of Canis Major – Latin for “the greater dog,” according to Space.com.

Whatever you call it, Sirius will be a sight to behold as the New Year begins.

“The sky gives you its brightest star at the highest it can be as a ‘sign’ for you to have a bright, happy, and healthy year,” Storch said. “If it is clear on New Year’s Eve, go outside to look for yourself, and if you can, please pass it along to somebody else.”

 

 

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