The wintertime sky is filled with many bright stars and constellations, but none are brighter than the star once known as “The Sparkling Star” or “The Scorching One,” known to us today as Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major, the Big Dog.
At a distance of 8.7 light years, Sirius is the fifth nearest star known. Throughout history it has been an object of veneration and wonder. Its name appears to be derived directly from the Greek word for “sparkling” or “scorching,” and one can understand how it received these titles upon seeing it just after it has risen above the southeast horizon as it will do this week shortly after 7 p.m.
When at such a low altitude, the thicker layer of air near to the horizon causes its light to scintillate rapidly, causing it to seem to flicker with all the colors of the rainbow.
A few hours later when it has risen higher in the sky, its color appears a brilliant white tinged with a distinctive bluish hue. An admirer of Sirius once compared its sparkle to that of a brilliant diamond. And precisely at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday night, Sirius will reach its highest point directly above the southern horizon.