On New Year’s Eve, the brightest star visible from our planet, Sirius, reaches its highest point in the sky as the clock strokes midnight (or, near to it). What a cosmic way to shine in the new year! And 2017 is going to be an amazing year in the heavens, too!
Simply step outdoors on New Year’s Eve, as local midnight approaches. Look toward the south and you’ll easily see the brightest star, Sirius, also known as the “Dog Star.” Since neither the Moon nor any bright planets are around at that time, the Dog Star dominates with its bluish-white dazzle.
December 31: Brightest Star at its Highest
By chance, Sirius stands at its very highest at midnight as the year begins. How high up in floats depends on your location. From most of the United States, Sirius is about one third of the way up the sky. From the southernmost places like around Miami, Florida, it’s halfway up the sky. From Canada and most of Europe it’s quite low.
If you do live in southernmost Florida, look below the dog star. Just 10° above the horizon stands Canopus, the sky’s second brightest star. Canopus is invisible from the rest of the U.S. and also never rises for people in Europe and Canada. But for those in southern Texas and Florida, it clears the horizon and, like the Dog Star, stands highest at midnight just as the year begins.
The Biggest Sky Event of 2017
What will make 2017 so special celestially? The mainland United States will have its first total solar eclipse in 38 years. It’s not too early to plan where you’ll be. The moon’s shadow will travel along a narrow 150 mile wide path and that’s where you want to be on August 21. Go online and search NASA total solar eclipse August 21 and you’ll see a map of the moon’s path. Maybe you even have friends or relatives somewhere in that trajectory. Start planning now.
January 1: Moon, Venus, Mars
And give a toast to the Dog Star that it sends some of its magical canine energy and keeps the weather clear that day, during 2017’s “Dog Days” of summer. Or wait, hold off on that toast for a few hours, until later that day. Because, in a bit more magic, at dusk on January 1, during evening twilight, the crescent Moon will form a gorgeous conjunction and sit right beneath dazzling bright Venus, with dim orange Mars a bit higher up. Yes, the year will begin auspiciously.