Sirius the Dog Star

Last night, after our Bible Study, I went star-gazing. For a relatively clear night, it was surprisingly mild and I set up my little telescope in the graveyard. Our chapel is in a remote spot, so the orange haze of urban light pollution barely hinders one’s gaze. The moon afforded excellent views, but February is a great month to spot Sirius, sometimes called the Dog Star. In the northern hemisphere, Sirius is behind the sun in the summer, only re-emerging as that season draws to a close.  

Its name comes from the Latin Sīrius, from the Greek Seirios, meaning ’glowing’ or ’scorching’; the Greeks considered it brought bad luck, especially in the form of droughts and excessive temperatures. The ancient Egyptians noted its prominence at the time of the Nile’s flooding and therefore welcomed its appearance as the goddess Sopdet. It might even be the origin of the Egyptian god Osiris, who regularly dies and reappears. 

Sirius is much hotter than our sun; its surface temperature is about 9,400 Centigrade in contrast to the sun’s 5,500. It is twice the mass of the sun and just under twice its diameter, so Sirius churns out 26 times more energy and is 25 times as bright. It produces most of this energy by converting hydrogen into helium through nuclear fusion. So although it appears less bright than the sun, moon, and nearby planets, it is far more impressive an object. This is because it is 8.6 light years away, or roughly 52 trillion miles. This renders it ‘smaller’ in our eyes and its influence less powerful. Yet it tells us that the universe we inhabit is far grander and more sublime than we are able to behold or imagine. Its enormity, awesome beauty and incomprehensible wonder is a reflection of its Creator:

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1)

NASA/SAO/CXC, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons