The Dog Days of summer are approaching. The “dog days” are defined as the period from July 3 through August 11, the sultriest period of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This is when the Dog Star, Sirius, rises in conjunction (or nearly so) with the sun. The Romans and Greeks associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. It was believed that Sirius, because of its close proximity to the sun was responsible for the hot weather. In 1813 author John Brady, in his Clavis Calendaria, wrote about the dog days saying “…the sea boiled, the wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”
A more sensible view was put forward by the astronomer Geminus around 70 B.C. He wrote: “It is generally believed that Sirius produces the heat of the ‘dog days,’ but this is an error, for the star merely marks a season of the year when the sun’s heat is the greatest.”
Canis Major is found southeast of Orion. An easy way to locate the constellation is to locate the three stars that make up Orion’s Belt and follow the stars down in a southwesterly direction until you come to the next bright star. This is Sirius in Canis Major, it’s the brightest star in the constellation and the brightest star in the night sky.