The Dog Days of Summer.
The Dog Star and The Pup.
Well its official, we’re in the dog days of summer. But what exactly are the dog days of summer?
The” Dog Days of Summer” are the hottest sultriest part of the summer season. In the Northern Hemisphere they occur in the months of July and August. While in the Southern Hemisphere they typically are felt in January and February, in the mist of the austral summer.
There are many beliefs as to why they are call the” Dog Days of Summer”. One popular explanation was that the phase referred to the laziness of domesticated dogs. During the hottest parts of the day, dogs will rest in a cool spot to avoid becoming overheated. Another myth claims the phase was termed such because during these extremely hot days more rabid dogs were seen. However none of these explanations are true.
The “Dog Days of Summer” actually have a celestial origin. Starting on July 3th until August 11th, Sirius, The Dog Star rises in conjunction with the sun. Sirius is the brightest star of the constellation Canis Major (Greater Dog). In fact it is a binary star system, meaning there are two stars in the system. Sirius A is the star commonly known as “The Dog Star” while its brother star Sirius B (The Pup) is a dead star or white dwarf.
During “The Dogs Days” Sirius appears brilliant white with a tinge of blue. But if the atmosphere is unsteady or the star low in the horizon, it seems to flicker with all the colors of the rainbow. Of all the stars which can be seen with a naked-eye, it is the nearest of them all except for Alpha Centauri.
Again there are many myths connected with the raising of Sirius, and the dry hot days that usually occur at this time. Since Sirius is the brightest star it was thought that its combination with the sun caused the dry hotter days.
In ancient Egypt, when Sirius was seen rising just before the Sun, they knew the” Nile Days” were at hand. It was seen as a warning for those living on the Nile River of the coming of the floodwaters. When seen they opened the gates of the canals to irrigate the fields.
Other common myths during ancient times, included droughts, plagues and madness in animals and humans. Finally in 70 B.C a sensible view was brought forth by an astronomer named Geminus. He wrote these words, “It is generally believed that Sirius produces the heat of the dog days, but that is an error, for the star merely marks a season of the year when the suns heat is the greatest”
Perhaps Geminus was correct in his beliefs or maybe Sirius (The Dog Star) is responsible for the hot sultry days during this time period every summer. The true cause may forever remain a mystery. A mystery to be pondered while sitting on a lawn chair under a clear hot July night sky.
My dogs Katie and Kole. Photo owned by PR Mace