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Sirius and Saturn on New Year's Night

Sirius, the brightest star of the night sky, shines due south at midnight on New Year's Eve. Year after year, the scintillating star proclaims the birth of the New Year with the certitude of a clock and a calendar.

This year, the planet Saturn joins Sirius to ring in 2004. Both shine in the southern sky and are at their highest at midnight, right at the start of the New Year. Golden Saturn towers way over Sirius, with a dimmer yet a brilliant and steady light. Brighter Sirius sparkles with a magnificent iridescence, much closer to the horizon.

Saturn is in the constellation Gemini, showing you where the Sun resides upon the zodiac on June 30. Saturn, which is opposite the Sun in our sky on New Year's night, rises at sunset on December 31 and sets at sunrise on January 1. On that night, Saturn mimics the position and the motion of the Sun six months henceforth. At midnight, Saturn shines right where the Sun shines at high noon on June 30.

Sirius on New Year's night, on the other hand, playacts as the Sun of Groundhog Day. It rises and sets on the same place on the horizon. At midnight, it rises to the same elevation as the February 2 noonday Sun.

On New Year's night, compare Sirius to Saturn to distinquish the Sun's seasonal paths across the sky. At 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve, Sirius reveals the Sun's place in the sky for 8 a.m. on Groundhog Day, whereas Saturn reveals its place for 8 a.m. on June 30. At 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve, Sirius and Saturn illustrate the Sun as it appears for 9 a.m. on these same two dates. And at 2 a.m. on New Year's Day, the two orbs depict the Sun as it's seen at 2 p.m. -- and so on and so forth...

Enjoy Sirius and Saturn, torchbearers of the New Year.

copyright 2003 by Bruce McClure

Star Map of Sirius & Saturn