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From some time now (few weeks as far as I can remember), there is a very bright star in the eastern sky.

I first thought it was Venus, but according to this link, Venus is in the western sky and sets 2 hours after sunset. But this (very) bright star is still up even though it's midnight (6 hours after sunset).

Does anyone know what is this star (or planet) ?

Please excuse my silly question as I know nothing about astronomy.

Thanks.

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If you have a smartphone or a tablet with a built in compass and possibly also a gyroscope (but not necessary), then the easiest to identify a celestial object would be in my opinion to install one of the skymap apps and simply point your device towards the object you're interested in. For example, I find Sky Map + to be quite useful for such tasks, once you set its sensor sensitivity up properly. It also has night mode and finger gestures to zoom in and out. Play with setting a bit which objects it displays to remove clutter. ;) –  Noordung Oct 19 '13 at 16:06
    
Very good point. Problem is I got to find a smartphone first lol. Thanks :) –  ahmed Oct 19 '13 at 17:08
    
The link provided is for a regularly updated page which describes (among other things) the current position of Venus. It no longer describes the position of Venus at the time the question was asked. –  Jeremy Mar 25 at 21:01

5 Answers 5

It will be very difficult to tell you without knowing where you are located. Particularly, if you are in the northern or southern hemisphere. At this time of year, most of the brightest stars are in the sky. Also where in the sky, the particular star that you are wondering about is. And any other constellations that you can identify.

For stars rising this time of year, particularly bright ones you might be thinking of Sirius. Which would be near the constellation Orion below the hourglass shape of the it (http://starchart.polaris.net/chart.php?constel=ori&layoutType=Key&layoutOri=Portrait&project=SANSONS&type=PNGC).

Another possibility would be Aldebaran, it is located in a "V" shape of stars that make up the constellation Taurus. http://starchart.polaris.net/chart.php?constel=tau&layoutType=Key&layoutOri=Portrait&project=SANSONS&type=PNGC

To find out I would take a look at some of the online star charts that are available for your time and location. That will give you a good idea of what you are seeing. Here is a list of some online:

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/resources/internet/3305011.html?page=1&c=y

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Thanks for the links. I will try to figure out what star is that and I'll update with an answer as soon as possible :) –  ahmed Oct 19 '13 at 12:01

A good way to get to know what is visible at your location is to use a software that maps the sky. One such free software is Stellarium available for all platforms. You can easily either find your place (or a nearby place) in its built in database of locations or alternatively provide the longitude/latitude for your location. With such software you will be able to see the sky map in real time and hence figure out what everything is.

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There's a link on the very page you link to for other planets that shows Jupiter apparently rising about 7 or 8 pm so that may be it. The article says "Watch for the moon to swing near Jupiter on December 18 and December 19." so if that bright object is near the moon on those dates that is probably what you are looking at.

Stellarium is a great free program for viewing positions of planets and stars.

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A "(very) bright star is still up even though it's midnight (6 hours after sunset)." in the east at this time of year is likely Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

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As other people have pointed out, it is hard to work out which star it is, without knowing your general location. However, after checking on Stellarium, there seem to be a couple of likely suspects:

  • Sirius - the brightest star in the sky. I've seen it myself - and on a good, dark night, it can really stand out.
  • Jupiter - the king of the planets is also rising at about the same time. It is brighter than any star in the sky, by a wide margin (though fainter than Venus), and it can really stand out.

Other than that, there aren't really that many objects rising in the East at the time you specify that could really stand out.

There are a couple of useful ways to tell the two apart:

  • Sirius is a bright white object - perhaps with a subtle bluish tinge to it, whereas Jupiter has a slight yellow tint to it.
  • Jupiter is currently rising in the North-East, and can get very high in the sky at the moment from the northern hemisphere, whereas Sirius rises in the South-East, and doesn't get that high (though that does depend on location).
  • Sirius tends to twinkle, and 'flicker', as its light is disturbed by air currents, whereas Jupiter remains very steady - perhaps not twinkling at all.

As mentioned earlier, the best method is usually to use software like Stellarium, which will tell you exactly where everything is, and hopefully give you a definitive answer to which object it is.

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