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. Although a few planets might be brighter, Sirius outshines every other star in the night sky.
If you go outside late this evening and look toward the south, you’ll easily notice Sirius shining there. This star is so bright that you notice it twinkling fiercely. 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 the course of many nights of the year. 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.