Sirius – A Sparkling Star for New Year’s Eve

Map and Finderscope view courtesy of Mobile Observatory by Wolfgang Zima. Eyepiece depiction courtesy of Sky Tools 3, by Sky Hound.

 

December 31st, 2015

Sirius, to me, will always be the New Year star as it’s easily seen over the southern horizon around midnight on New Year’s Eve and January 1st. As many people know, it’s the brightest star in the entire night sky and has been known throughout history by many different civilizations and cultures.

It’s a brilliant blue-white star that will often sparkle and flash a myriad of colors when close to the horizon. In fact, its name is actually derived from the Greek for “glowing” and it’s not unusual for unsuspecting folk to report it as a UFO.

Easily found by drawing a line through Orion’s belt down and toward the east, it’s a very easy target and you may have already turned your telescope toward it. What did you see? Personally, I was very surprised to find that it can be dazzling when observed, even at low power.

At 26x I’ve noticed that it forms a triangle with two much fainter stars and there’s a fourth, coppery star between those two that’s fainter than all of them.

An artist's depiction of Sirius A and B. Credit: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI)

An artist’s depiction of Sirius A and B. Credit: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI)

 

Sirius is a little over eight and a half light years away and is one of the closest stars to the Earth. Besides the primary star itself, there’s a smaller white dwarf companion that can be glimpsed with large telescopes.

This companion was once a red giant that slowly died and shrunk about 120 million years ago.  As the primary, Sirius A, is often known as the “dog star” the white dwarf companion, Sirius B, is sometimes nicknamed “the pup.”

Text, map, finderscope and eyepiece depictions slightly adapted from my book, Easy Things to see With a Small Telescope, available in both Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

 

All Astronomical Events for December 31st, 2015

17:48 UT – Mercury is at half phase. (50% illuminated, magnitude -0.3, diameter 7.2”. Naked eye, Sagittarius, evening sky.)

23:18 UT – The waning gibbous Moon passes Jupiter. (Jupiter: magnitude -2.2, diameter 38.9”. Naked eye, Leo, pre-dawn sky.)

 

Events in bold involve objects and/or events that are visible with the naked eye.

All times are in Universal Time (UTC). To convert the time to your timezone, click here.

Astronomical events taken from 2015: An Astronomical Year. ,The 2016 edition is now available in Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom. Night sky simulations created using Mobile Observatory for Android devices.

2016 An Astronomical Year Paperback Cover 2016 The Night Sky Sights The Astronomical Almanac 2015-2019 Kindle Cover - Deep Sky Observer's Guide

Easy Things to See With a Small Telescope

2016: An Astronomical Year 2016: The Night Sky Sights The Astronomical Almanac (2015-2019) The Deep Sky Observer’s Guide

(Kindle & Paperback)

(Kindle & Paperback) (Kindle & Paperback) (Kindle & Paperback)

(Paperback)

Amazon – US

Amazon – US Amazon – US Amazon – US Amazon – US
Amazon – UK Amazon – UK  Amazon – UK Amazon – UK

Amazon – UK

Details of all available books across the world can be found here or by visiting the author’s page on Amazon. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me at astronomywriter “at” gmail.com

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