Tonight – New Year’s Eve – look up for the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major.
This star is up in the evening every winter, and it’s always easy to identify.
If you go outside late this evening and look toward the south, you’ll easily notice Sirius shining there. (Or from the Southern Hemisphere, look overhead or high in the north.) This star is so bright that you notice it twinkling fiercely – especially from northerly latitudes, where the star stays closer to the horizon. You might even see it flashing different colors – just hints of colors from red to blue – like the celestial counterpart to an earthly diamond.
December 31 is a special night, the end of a calendar year. And it’s a special night for Sirius, too. This glittering star reaches its highest point on the sky’s dome in periods of about 23 hours and 56 minutes. But its official midnight culmination – when it’s highest in the sky at midnight – comes only once every year. And tonight’s the night, as the New Year begins with Sirius’ culmination at the midnight hour. By midnight, we mean the middle of the night, midway between sunset and sunrise. The midnight culmination of Sirius by the clock may be off by as much as one-half hour or so, depending on how far east or west you live from the meridian that governs your time zone.
Bottom line: If you’re celebrating the New Year tonight, and you happen to gaze up at the sky, look southward for Sirius – and take a moment to celebrate the sky’s brightest star.