Happy Wednesday everyone and welcome to week 55! This week we will be looking for the brightest star in the night sky and the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major: SIRIUS
Sirius, also known as the “Dog Star” is so bright and so twinkly, especially while close to the horizon that it has been mistakenly reported as a UFO! Those of you who took my class “Stargazing for Paranormal Investigators” that I hosted live back in June will remember that bright lights near the horizon are often significantly distorted by the Earth’s atmosphere. Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky and even though it’s a white/blue-ish white star, it can appear to have a rainbow-colored twinkle while low in the sky.
To find Sirius tonight, start by finding Orion like we did the past two weeks. Below Orion and a bit to the left you’ll find an exceptionally bright star that is really hard to miss (unless it’s cloudy). That’s Sirius! Feel free to use a stargazing app like Sky Map to confirm, but really if you are looking at a very bright star near Orion – a star that is brighter than any other stars near it – you can be fairly certain you found Sirius.
In addition to being exceptionally bright with an apparent magnitude of -1.46 (magnitude is another thing we learned about in “Stargazing for Paranormal Investigators“), it is also fairly close to us at only 8.6 light-years away! That means it would take about 8 and a half years to get to this star if you were traveling at the speed of light. Compare that to our last two Stargazing Side Quest targets Rigel and Betelgeuse 863 and 724 light years away respectively. 8.6 years at light-speed is a walk around the block by comparison!
Let us know if you find Sirius tonight! Be sure to tag @stargazingsidequest and @liminalearth on Instagram, especially if you get some pictures of it, so we can boost and celebrate your stargazing achievement.