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 year at this time, and – from all parts of Earth (except those far-southern realms in continuous daylight now) – Sirius is easy to identify. December 31 is a special night, the end of a calendar year. And it’s a special night for Sirius, too. This star’s official midnight culmination – when it’s highest in the sky at midnight – comes only once every year. And tonight’s the night.
From the Northern Hemisphere … look toward the south, and you’ll easily notice Sirius shining there at around midnight. From the Southern Hemisphere … look overhead or high in the north at around midnight.
And, by the way, by midnight, we mean the middle of the night, midway between sunset and sunrise.
This star is so bright that you might notice it twinkling fiercely, especially from northerly latitudes, where the star stays closer to the horizon. You might even see it flashing hints of different colors. When you see Sirius high in the sky, as you will from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere, it’ll shine with a bright, steady white light.
Remember … the midnight culmination of Sirius by the clock might 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, and you happen to gaze up at the sky, look for Sirius. This star’s midnight culmination – when it’s highest in the sky at midnight – comes on New Year’s Eve.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.