The sky offers up some beautiful options for seeing the old year out and the new year in tonight.
Shortly after the year’s final sunset, look toward the southwest for a lineup of four bright planets — an array that includes the second- and third-brightest objects in the night sky.
The brightest member of the quartet is Venus, the “evening star.” It’s quite low in the sky, so you need a clear horizon to spot it — any clutter will block it from view. If you do see it, look close to the left for the fainter planet Mercury. Golden Saturn stands to their upper left. And brilliant Jupiter — the solar system’s largest planet — is about the same distance to the upper left of Saturn.
The planets are all gone from view by midnight. But some especially bright stars take their place. Orion the hunter is high in the south. Look for a rectangle of four bright stars with a short line of three stars at its center — Orion’s Belt. Follow the belt to the lower left and you’ll come to the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. And if you have dark skies, look for the Milky Way arcing high overhead.
If you plan to watch the dawn of the new year, look low in the southeast for a pair of orange “eyes.” The one on the left is Mars, while the other is Antares, the star that marks the heart of the scorpion. And as twilight brightens, a fingernail crescent Moon rises below them — a tough target for the dawn of the new year.
Script by Damond Benningfield