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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earthsky Tonight – Dec 30 2009, Star Sirius is torchbearer of the New Year

Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science

South, Late New Year's Eve
Night sky, December 31, 2009

Lots of celestial lights will adorn the nighttime as the clock ticks toward the midnight hour tomorrow, bringing in the New Year. For starters, there’s Orion, the gem of all constellations. And Sirius, the brightest star of nighttime, shining to the lower left of Orion’s Belt.

No less a fixture than the tolling bells that ring in the New Year, Sirius is truly the New Year’s Day star. Sirius celebrates its favorite holiday by reaching its highest point in the sky at the stroke of midnight, annually proclaiming the birth of the New Year, year after year.

By midnight, we mean the middle of the night, midway between sunset and sunrise. Like the sun, the stars rise in the east and travel westward across the sky. When the sun or any star is in the eastern half of the sky, it is climbing upward. When the sun or any star is in the western sky, it is descending downward. Midway between rising and setting, the sun or any star reaches its highest point in the sky.

Sirius will reach its highest point in the sky at midnight New Year’s Day! Because the stars rise and set 4 minutes earlier with each passing night, Sirius will climb to its highest point tonight some 4 minutes after the midnight hour. On the night following New Year’s, Sirius will be highest up for the night at 4 minutes before midnight.

Written by Bruce McClure

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