Opinion: Dog days of summer


Commentary by Ward Degler

Here we are in the dog days of summer. Most of you probably know these days have nothing to do with dogs. It’s all about Sirius, the dog star, which rises with the sun throughout July and most of August. Next to the sun, it is the brightest star in the heavens.

The ancient Greeks made note of this and believed the star added to the heat of the sun and actually caused the sweltering temperatures of late summer. We know that is nonsense because Sirius is some 50 trillion miles farther away than the sun. Net effect on us: Zilch. Even so, mariners have long relied on Sirius for navigation, particularly during the summer months when it is brightest.

We can’t dismiss dogs entirely, however.  During dog days, the star is positioned as the eye of the constellation Canis Major, which is Latin for “greater dog.” Moreover, the three stars that make up the belt of the constellation Orion – the hunter — point directly at Sirius. A glance at the night sky, then, gives us a glimpse of the hunter of our universe and his faithful dog.

Dog days are different in different parts of the world. They come earlier in the south and later in northern latitudes.

Sirius is also subject to Earth’s wobbly orbit. Astronomers have figured out that in another 13,000 years, Sirius will rise in the middle of the winter rather than summer. Then we can talk about the dog days of winter.

They still won’t have anything to do with dogs.