By David Rives
Also known as the ‘Dog Star’, Sirius is thought to be 8.6 light years away. It is actually a binary or double-star system, composed of the primary star, Sirius A, and the faint Sirius B beside it. Some observers refer to these two as Sirius and his pup.
The hottest part of the year, known by some as the dog days of summer, was known by the Greeks to begin at the rising of Sirius, the dog star. In Greek, “seirios” means “glowing”, and no wonder: Sirius, is the brightest appearing star in the night sky, easily seen following the constellation Orion across the heavens.
Homer’s Iliad relates Achilles’ journey to Troy on a summer night with Sirius rising in the sky. The rising of Sirius before dawn actually marked the beginning of the Egyptian New Year.
One ancient astronomer, dating back to the first century describes the star as red, leaving many astronomers confused with current observations.
While this description may have been a simple error, several other ancient references have been noted accounting a red Sirius, and some describing a blue star. Whether or not the apparent color has changed over time, today, Sirius is a very bright white main sequence star.
Since Biblical times, the bright and recognizable stars of the night have been used for navigation, study, and reference. They were placed in the heavens by God on day four of the creation week.
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