Where does the term “Dog Days of Summer” come from?

Weather

Stella, a bulldog, poses after competing in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show’s agility contest on Friday, June 11, 2021, in Tarrytown, New York. Because of pandemic precautions, the prestigious dog show is being held outside New York City for the first time. (AP Photo/Jennifer Peltz)

SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR-TV)

With the heat returning to Central New York and the Northeast over the next week you may hear the term “Dog Days of Summer” thrown around.

Where does the term come from and does it have anything to do with dogs?

You could say this story has more ‘bark’ than ‘bite’.

The origins go back to Roman and Greek times. In July through early August, the constellation Canis Major or “The Greater Dog” would rise at the same time as the sun. Within that constellation is the star Sirius, the “Dog Star.” Next to the sun, Sirius is the brightest star in our sky.

The Greeks and Romans thought Sirius contributed along with the heating from the sun to create the very warm weather of mid-summer in the Northern Hemisphere.  In fact, Sirius comes from the Greek word ‘seirious’ which translates to ‘scorching’ 

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However, even though Sirius is twice the size of our sun, it is more than eight and a half light years away from us (or half a million times greater than the distance from the earth to our sun!) and has no impact on heating the earth.

Sirius and the sun rising together coincided with flooding along the Nile River so the ancient Egyptian tied the two events together.

While there is some debate as to when the “Dog Days” occur, the most common definition is starting July 3 when Sirius begins to rise with the sun until August 11 when the star starts to appear again in the night sky.

Because Sirius is rising with the sun this time of year, we can’t see it in the summer months. We typically have the best view of this very bright star in the southern sky at the start of winter in December.

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