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By Alison Hawkes, Bay Nature
With New Year’s Eve just approaching, you may find yourself staring at the heavens and wondering what 2013 portends. If you’re lucky and put yourself in just the right spot at midnight, you may be able to see the second-brightest star in the sky that’s normally invisible to much of the Bay Area — Canopus.
Dale Gieringer, an amateur astronomer and, you could say, Canopus aficionado, has been tracking down sightings of the elusive Canopus since 1972. The Oakland resident has traveled all over the Bay Area in search of spots where the supergiant appears, ever so low on the horizon.
“The problem is you have to have just the right conditions — a clear night with a perfect horizon,” he said. “You can’t say you will have a Canopus party tonight and with any certainty it’s going to pan out.”
Canopus is the northernmost star of the famous stars of the southern skies, where it shines just below the brightest of stars visible from Earth, Sirius. In theory, Canopus’ northern limit of visibility is latitude 37°18′ north, right around San Jose. The Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton is, maybe, the best viewing spot, because its elevation and atmospheric refraction add another degree to the star’s apparent altitude.
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