Bright Sirius is the New Year Star

January 1, 2020
Sirius Highest at Midnight New Year's
NASA

Want a cosmic way to ring in the New Year? On New Year’s Eve, the brightest star visible from our planet, Sirius, reaches its highest point in the sky as the clock strikes midnight (or, near to it).

 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” or “New Year Star.”

Since neither the Moon nor any bright planets are around at that time, the Dog Star dominates with its bluish-white dazzle. (See your Moon phase calendar.)

Sirius stands at its very highest at midnight every New Year’s Eve 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.

If you look for the sky’s brightest star, and are still not sure, here’s a can’t-miss solution:

  • Just look for the most recognizable constellation, Orion. Now look for the three stars of Orion’s belt. Follow the same angle of the belt which is a pointer to Sirius.

orion-belt-sirius_0.jpg
Credit: NASA

Latest Sunrises

You may recall that I wrote about the earliest sunsets happening in early December—not at the winter solstice which brings the shortest day (i.e., fewest number of daylight hours).

Well, the latest sunrises in the Northern Hemisphere occur in early January. (The folks living in the Southern Hemisphere are experiencing the latest sunsets.) For example, sunrise time in Des Moines, Iowa is near 7:41 a.m. See YOUR sunrise and sunset times.

To put it simply, the reason for the timing of the sunrise and sunset is related to tilt of Earth’s rotation axis and the fact that Earth’s orbit isn’t a perfect circle.

Bottom line, the latest sunrises are now, so enjoy a good night’s sleep!

sunrise-1941168_1920_full_width.jpg

Now take a peek at the Top Night Sky Event for 2020!

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s hub for everything stargazing and astronomy. Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, he covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob, the world’s mostly widely read astronomer, also has a new weekly podcast, Astounding Universe