Hot weather? Blame it on the dog

August 10, 2010

Eye on Faith and Science

sirius

A Hubble Space Telescope image of Sirius A and its very tiny companion, Sirius B. (Photo: NASA, ESA)

The dog days of summer are definitely in full force here in Minnesota, with temperatures in the 90s expected for most of this week.

We associate the phrase “dog days” with the hottest part of the summer — days marked by pool parties, parish festivals and lazy, leisurely weekends.

But did you ever wonder where the phrase “dog days” originated?

It’s connected to the star Sirius — located in the constellation Canis Major (the “Big Dog”) and nicknamed the Dog Star.

Sirius is normally the brightest star in the night sky. But in July to about mid-August, it rises with the sun. The ancients believed (wrongly, of course) that the extra heat generated by this bright star added to the sun’s output, leading to hotter summer days.

So if anyone complains to you about the heat this week, tell them to blame it on the dog.

About Joe Towalski

Editor of The Catholic Spirit, husband, dad, baseball fan(atic), astronomy buff. Follow me on Twitter @towalskij

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