Sky ArchiveTonight

Sirius midnight culmination New Years Eve

Use Orion’s Belt to find Sirius, the brightest star of the nighttime sky.

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.

Click here for transit (midnight culmination) times for Sirius in your sky

Even from big cities, you can see Sirius, the sky’s brightest star. Gowrishankar Lakshminarayanan created this composite image on December 26, 2017 and wrote: “After a series of clouded night skies in New York City, we finally got a clear night though it was bitter cold and the temperature dropped to 25 F.! Here you can see the brightest star of the winter night sky – Sirius – and its path as it rises in the southeast sky to clip the spire of the Freedom Tower. This is a 78-image composite, spaced 30 seconds apart. I always thought that star trails within light-polluted city skies weren’t a good idea, since we hardly see any stars. However, thanks to bright stars like Sirius, we can still show a nice star trail in NYC!”

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.

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December 31, 2017
Sky Archive

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Deborah Byrd

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