Sky spy: Look south for two brightest stars in the sky

2013-02-07T00:00:00Z 2014-07-01T16:51:22Z Sky spy: Look south for two brightest stars in the skyTim Hunter Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It is midwinter and often cold after sunset, but this is a good time to enjoy the two brightest stars in the sky - Sirius and Canopus.

They will be directly south around 9:30 p.m.

Sirius is the brightest star in the sky. Its name,means "searing" or "scorching" in Greek, and it is one of the main features in the bright constellation Canis Major the Greater Dog, which follows Orion the Hunter in the sky as one of his companions. Sirius is often referred to as the "Dog Star."

It owes its top position as the brightest star to its relative proximity to the Earth, since it is "only" 8.6 light years away and one of the closest stars to the sun. However, it is no stellar wimp; it's 26 times brighter than the sun. It also has a small companion star Sirius B that is a white dwarf star, a small, compact, very hot star which is a ball of carbon and oxygen, the dying remnant of a formerly larger star now slowly cooling off.

Look just above the southern horizon and slightly to the west of Sirius to see Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky. It is so bright I can easily see it from my living room, which overlooks the lights of Tucson to the south.

Due to its southern location, Canopus is not visible from Canada and most of the continental United States. Canopus is a supergiant star 313 light years away and 15,000 times brighter than the sun with a diameter 65 times that of the sun. Its intense nuclear fires produce enough light for it to be a dominant star in the Southern Hemisphere.

Moon Watch

The moon is a waning (getting smaller) crescent. New moon is Sunday. During the next few days, the evening sky will be dark without the moon.

Contact Tim Hunter at skyspy@azstarnet.com

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