Night sky from Muskoka, ON. Photo by Michael J. Bennett. CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED

Between three and a half hours to four hours after sunset, the stars Mirzam and Sirius rise. As I have mentioned in past posts, Sirius is the brightest star in the sky. But it wasn’t always that way. Around four million years ago, Mirzam was the brightest star in the sky, about seven times brighter than Sirius. At that time, Mirzam was only 37 light years from Earth. Since that time, however, Mirzam has moved much farther away. Now it is 500 light years from us and it is over 19 times fainter than Sirius. If you have a clear southeastern horizon, you can see the star Mirzam rise. It doesn’t look very impressive in modern times since it has faded into the background. The name Mirzam means “announcer”. When Mirzam rises, it announces the rising of the current brightest star in the sky, which is currently Sirius. Around 15 minutes after Mirzam rises, Sirius rises slightly to its north. Although Mirzam may be difficult to distinguish from the other stars in the sky, there is no mistaking Sirius which is sometimes called the king of stars. During these Advent days, we have been hearing Gospel readings about St. John the Baptist announcing the coming of Jesus. Watching Mirzam and Sirius can serve as a beautiful symbol of Jesus coming into our world.