Sunday, August 9, 2009

Get Sirius

Hot and humid . . . Lazy, hazy, crazy days . . . the “dog days of summer.” But why is that so? "Who let the dogs out" to get involved with this August weather?

It all goes back to ancient times and the brightest star in the night sky – “Sirius,” or the “dog star.” The leading light of the constellation Canis Major, or great dog, Sirius is several times brighter than the Sun.

Millennia ago in ancient Egypt, the first appearance of Sirius in the dawn sky – along with the sun – marked the time when the Nile River began its annual floods, bringing water to waiting Egyptian fields. In ancient Greece, Sirius signaled the “dog days” – the hottest, stickiest time of year.

Even though nowadays Sirius rises into view later in the year than it did long ago, our hot, sticky days are still named for it: the dog days.

(All of which has nothing whatever to do with “Sirius Black,” Harry Potter’s godfather in J. K. Rowling's wonderful series -- except the sheer pleasure of referring to him. An Animagus, that Sirius could change himself into a big black dog when necessary to conceal his identity. Was his name a prophecy of the animal he could become, or a reflection [PRE-flection?] of it?)

Finally, “hot and humid” and “lazy and hazy” both suggest the same advice for August: keep on hydrating.

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