There are two times of the year when the beautiful Star of Isis, Sirius, is most prominent.
One is in summer, at Her heliacal rising, which is the first time the star is seen to rise just before dawn after a long absence. To the ancient Egyptians, the rise of Sirius marked the New Year and the coming of the all-important Nile flood.
The other time is right now, during January (at least for those in the mid-northern latitudes). When you look to the night sky in January, the first thing you see, and the one that can take your breath away, is Sirius. Interestingly enough, Sirius reaches its highest point in the sky—directly overhead—at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Thus Sirius is our star of the New Year, too, just as it was for the ancient Egyptians. I utterly love this fact.
Of course, Sirius continues to dominate the night sky throughout the winter months. As a devotee of Isis, I consider it a sacred duty to spend at least some time during the winter observing the beauty of the Goddess in the night sky and offering Her the praise of my heart. Care to join me?
If so, look to the east-southeast just after sunset. See that diamond-like star near the horizon? That’s Her. No other star in the belly of Nuet can match Her for brilliance (in fact, the second brightest star is only half as bright as Sirius). If you have access to a telescope, O please do use it to look at Her, especially when She is near the horizon. The Goddess flashes with green, blue, pink, and white starlight.
And of course, if you continue lifting your gaze upwards, you will see the constellation of Orion, which the Egyptians associated with Osiris, the Beloved of Isis.
But winter will pass and summer will come. And to help you prepare for that time, I’d like to share with you a better way to discover the time of the heliacal rising of Isis’ star in your area… with a little help from the US Naval Observatory.
So, first step: let’s go to the Observatory’s Data Services. This link should open in a new window of your browser so you can read the directions in one window and calculate in another.
Step two: If you’re in the US, fill out the first form you see at this link. If you’re outside the US, scroll down to Form B.
For the month and day, select July 1, and for the number of days put in 60. That should cover the most likely days for the rising of Sirius in your area. (If you already have an idea about when Sirius rises in your area, you can narrow the days to 30; I selected August 1 and 30 days.) Then choose Sirius as the “celestial object of interest.” Put in your location and height above sea-level (Google can tell you that, if you don’t know), then click “compute data.”
Step three: Either print out the results or take a screen shot so you can refer to the info in a minute. Put that aside and go back to the form.
Step four: Change the celestial object of interest to the sun, keeping everything else the same, and recalculate. Then print or take a screen shot of the results.
Now you have everything you need. Compare the two charts. For Sirius, look in the Rise Az. column. For the sun, look in the Begin Civil Twilight column. You’re looking for the first day that Sirius rises before civil twilight begins. In the charts below, you can see that in Portland, on August 13 of this year, Sirius will rise one minute before civil twilight begins, and about a half hour before sunrise. Assuming the skies are clear, I should be able to see Sirius in the pre-dawn sky on the morning of that day. It will likely be a brief glimpse, as the light of the sun will soon overtake the light of the star, but that would be “Egyptian New Year.”
There. Now you’re all set for viewing the Star of Isis, both in Her full January beauty and later in Her gentle dawning.