One of the strangest and most chaotic years any of us are ever likely to see comes to an end tonight. And we have to skip many of the usual year-end celebrations. But you can see the old year out — and the new one in — with a quiet celebration of your own. Just look to the midnight sky. It features a bright Moon, a fading planet, and the beautiful constellations of winter.
The Moon is high in the sky as the new year arrives. It’s only a couple of days past full, so it’s still big and bright. In fact, its glow overpowers many of the stars.
Only one planet is in view at that hour: Mars. It’s low in the west, and looks like a bright orange star. It’s lost a good bit of its brilliance from earlier in the year. But it’ll still be a beautiful sight as we head into 2021.
The constellation Orion is high in the south at midnight. It has lots of bright stars that shine through the moonlight. Look for its three-star belt, with orange Betelgeuse above and blue-white Rigel below.
And if you follow the line of the belt to the lower left, you’ll come to Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.
And even though spring is almost three months away, one of the harbingers of the season is already in view. Leo, the lion, is well to the lower left of the Moon. Its mighty heart is marked by the bright star Regulus.
So enjoy the beauty of the night sky as one year gives way to another — one we hope will be calm, safe, and happy for all.
Script by Damond Benningfield