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Dazzling Sirius: The Brightest Star In The Night Sky

Dazzling Sirius: The Brightest Star In The Night Sky

The brightest of all stars dazzling in the night sky is Sirius, the “Dog Star.” It is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog, and shines prominently at around 10 p.m. local time where it can be seen toward the south on chilly winter evenings.

It is also the unquestionable ruler in its own section of the sky; a truly dazzling object. In color, the star is a brilliant white with a definite tinge of blue, but when the air is unsteady it then seems, in rapid scintillation, to flicker with all the colors of the rainbow.

At a distance of 8.7 light years, Sirius is the fifth nearest star known. Among the naked-eye stars it is the nearest of all, with the exception of Alpha Centauri. Four thousand years ago, the ancient Egyptians noticed that Sirius would rise just before dawn at the time of the summer solstice apparently heralding the coming rise of the Nile, upon which Egyptian agriculture – and all life in Egypt – depended. Hence, Sirius became known as the “Nile Star” or “Star of Isis.”

More recently, the scorching heat of July and August was attributed by some to when Sirius rises with the Sun at that time of the year, bringing forth fever in men and madness in dogs. Thus the term “Dog Days of Summer.”

Where to view: Look for Sirius toward the south around 10 p.m. local time.

How to locate: Sirius is easy to locate on winter evenings — Use the constellation Orion and simply draw a line through Orion’s Belt, down to the left. This will point to Sirius.

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  • If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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