The Big Blip in the Sky: A Sirius Speculation

As a species, perhaps the most advanced civilization that had inhabited the universe (at the present moment), we have always strived to be masters of this small fraction of a dot, the Earth (when viewed from a stellar perspective). In multiple feeble attempts to reach our dreamed-of aspirations of becoming masters, there are certain moments that serve as reminders of our irrelevance, of our place in this seemingly infinite universe; one of these moments is peering at the night sky. When one becomes aware of our smallness relative to distant stars a hundred times bigger than our Earth, there follows a certain humility, a moving realization to be kinder, more loving to each other as human beings.

This is perhaps a semblance of what Neil Degrasse Tyson, a famous astrophysicist, and author, once penned in his book. The basic ingredients of our human bodies, the smallest molecules, can be credited to the cores that once fueled distant stars. This serves as a reminder that “… are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically.” In our constant pursuit of what is meaningful, we might perhaps realize that traces of the universe are within us.

A Sirius History

One of the celestial objects that might stimulate one to look inward into the self is Sirius A, also known as the Dog Star. The aforementioned star is the most radiant in the immensely vast and dark night sky. Sirius is a Latin word that literally translates as “glowing” or “scorcher.” It perhaps deserves this name since only the full moon and the International Space Station can out glow this star.

Sirius is referred to as the Dog Star as it is one of the stellar bodies that make up Canis Major, which translates as “the greater dog.” From July to early August, Sirius rises adjacent to the sun. Stargazers from the past correlated the extreme summer temperatures with the simultaneous rising of the sun and the star. Moreover, Sirius is of great significance to the ancient Egyptians. From the lens of ancient Egypt, Sirius always returned just a few moments before the water levels of the river rose. Egyptian farmers of the past would credit Sirius for the overflowing water that nourished their crops, hence, giving it the name “Nile Star.”

Proximal to Sirius, there is another star that is worth our attention. Due to its apparent radiance, Sirius is easy to spot with the naked eye. However, on the lower left of the brightest star in the sky is its humble companion—Sirius B. This star is a thousand times fainter than Sirius (Sirius A).

Locating Sirius

This star is relatively easy to spot (one can make an imaginary line through Orion’s belt) during January and February (a neat telescope might be a good investment beforehand!). It appears as the most radiant star in the sky. Sirius appears blue to white in color and is referred to as the rainbow star by some amateur astronomers due to the flickering colors that radiate from it, especially when it is low in the sky. In the past, the faint twinkling of Sirius was often confused by observers as a UFO. With a star as bright as Sirius, the light waves that pass through the layers of the Earth’s atmosphere are somehow distorted, which apparently causes the twinkling UFO appearance. It is worth noting that this phenomenon occurs for other stars, but they aren’t as noticeable as Sirius’.

As an amateur astronomer, if you are from the Western part of the world, this great light from the sky rises in the southeast and descends in the southwest. If you inhabit the southern hemisphere, then Sirius can be spotted overhead. During December, Sirius stars peaking around mid-evening, while in mid-April, can be spotted setting in the southwest after its evening zenith.

It is worth noting that only Sirius A is visible to the naked eye.