The moon is just past last quarter and now is a waning crescent. New moon is a week from Thursday, Feb. 8.

This is the most convenient time of the year to see the two brightest stars in the sky, Sirius and Canopus. Both stars are near one another and directly south around 9:30 p.m. Sirius is the brightest star. Its name means “searing” or “scorching” in Greek. Sirius is 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.”

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

Canopus, the second brightest star, is just above the southern horizon and slightly to the west of Sirius. Canopus is also no wimp. It 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.