Dog Days of Summer
The dog days of summer are here again. In the northern hemisphere, the days are so hot that, as the ancient Greeks put it, only dogs would be mad enough to go out in the heat. This expression, however, is not directly related to our animal friends’ foolishness. Instead, it ows its name to the dog star, Sirius (scorching star), the brightest star in the sky (closeup photo on the left).
During this period of the year (mid July early September), Sirius along with its companion stars in the constellation of Canis Major (greater dog) rises and sets with the sun. Before the Romans, the ancient Greeks called the same constellation Laelaps after the mythical dog who never failed to catch what he was hunting. According to other legends, the dog in this constellation is one of Orion’s two hounds. The other one is the nearby Canis Minor (smaller dog). Its brightest star also bears a dog-related name: Procyon means ‘coming before the dog’ and is the seventh most luminous star in the sky.
Dog days is a loan-translation of the Latin dies caniculares, which, in turn, is a loan-translation of the Greek hemerai kynades (Aristotle's Physics, 199a2).
Posted September 5, 2013
Filed Under: Blog