New Year’s Eve is almost upon us — a time when just about everybody is up and about at midnight. And coincidentally, it’s a good time of year to watch the midnight sky, which hosts some of the brightest stars and most beautiful constellations in the heavens. And you can view that same lineup tonight and throughout the week.
To start your tour of the midnight sky, look high in the southeast for the planet Jupiter. It’s the brightest object in the sky at that hour, shining like a brilliant cream-colored star.
The second-brightest object is in the south, to the lower right of Jupiter: the Dog Star, Sirius, which is the brightest true star in the night sky.
Orion, the hunter, stands to the upper right of Sirius. Look for a short line of three bright stars that aims toward Sirius. That line is Orion’s Belt. The hunter’s two brightest stars stand about equal distances above and below the belt.
A little farther to the northwest, you’ll come to Taurus, the bull. A V-shaped pattern of stars outlines its face, with orange Aldebaran as its baleful eye.
The bright star high overhead is yellow-orange Capella. The “twins” of Gemini, Pollux and Castor, are back over in the southeast, near Jupiter. And W-shaped Cassiopeia, the queen, is dropping down the northwestern quadrant of the sky, while the Big Dipper is climbing across the northeast.
So ring out the old year and ring in the new over the next few nights — with the help of the stars.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.