As a special treat on New Year’s Eve, Sirius will be the brightest star in the night sky, so be prepared to look up and catch it just as the new year rolls in at midnight. While Sirius is oftentimes referred to as the Dog Star owing to its placement in the constellation known as Canis Major the Greater Dog, it could also rightfully be called the New Year’s Star as at the start of each year at midnight Sirius will have climbed to the highest point in the sky that it reaches.
As EarthSky reports, if you are interested in gazing in wonder at Sirius on New Year’s Eve, it is relatively easy to spot in the blackness of space, and for that reason, it has been given its name, which also readily translates to either sparkling or scorching.
To find the star Sirius, turn your attention toward the Belt stars that can be found within the Orion constellation and you will not miss it, as Orion’s Belt will always lead stargazers straight to Sirius.
Because Sirius reaches its zenith and highest point in the sky on New Year’s Eve, astronomers called this its midnight culmination. Sirius is normally the brightest star in the sky right after the sun, shining at magnitude –1.5, which means that it is a whopping four times brighter than the third brightest star that can be seen from mid-northern latitudes.
See brightest star Sirius at midnight on New Year’s Eve ✨????????https://t.co/oVf0cOn8oD Dog Star Sirius reaches its highest point in the sky around midnight every New Year. For this reason, it might also be called the New Year's star. ????via Project Nightflight pic.twitter.com/XadIGzjcIT
— EarthSky (@earthskyscience) December 27, 2018
When gazing up at Sirius on New Year’s Eve, what may strike stargazers most about this star is that despite being a blue-white hue, Sirius can be seen to flicker many different shades of the rainbow, which is perhaps why another nickname which has been attributed to it is the rainbow star. Because of its ever-changing flickering of colors, Sirius is frequently mistaken for a UFO and is often reported as such.
However, the reason for its abject brightness is all down to how it shines through Earth’s atmosphere. Both the density and the temperature of the air on Earth can affect how starlight is perceived on the ground, and while color changes also occur to other stars, it is much more noticeable with Sirius because of its extreme brightness.
Sirius was written about in some of the oldest astronomical records known to man, and the ancient Egyptians worshipped it as the goddess Sopdet, who they believed would provide their rich land with the fertility it needed to keep things verdant with crops growing.
With the ancient Egyptian new year celebrated as The Coming of Sopdet, ringing in New Year’s Eve at midnight with Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, is a way to keep the link with our ancestors alive while also providing a pleasant way to usher in the new year.