Sirius

/sir"ee euhs/, n.
1. Astron. the Dog Star, the brightest-appearing star in the heavens, located in the constellation Canis Major.
2. Also, Seirios. Class. Myth.
a. the dog of Orion.
b. Icarius' faithful dog, who was changed into a star.
[1325-75; ME < L Sirius < Gk Seírios]

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Brightest star in the night sky (apparent magnitude -1.44), a binary star about 8.

6 light-years from the Sun in the constellation Canis Major. The bright component of the binary is a blue-white star 23 times as luminous as the Sun, about twice the size, and considerably hotter; its companion was the first white dwarf star discovered. Its name probably comes from a Greek word meaning "sparkling" or "scorching." The ancient Egyptians used its predawn rising to predict the annual flooding of the Nile. The ancient Romans associated the rising of the Dog Star at dawn with the hottest part of the year, called the "dog days."

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star
also called  Alpha Canis Majoris , or  Dog Star 

      brightest star in the night sky, with apparent visual magnitude −1.44. It is a binary star in the constellation Canis Major. The bright component of the binary is a blue-white star 23 times as luminous as the Sun and somewhat larger and considerably hotter than the Sun. Its distance from the solar system is about 8.6 light-years, only twice the distance of the nearest known star beyond the Sun. Its name probably comes from a Greek word meaning “sparkling,” or “scorching.”

      Sirius was known as Sothis to the ancient Egyptians, who were aware that it made its first heliacal rising (i.e., rose just before sunrise) of the year at about the time the annual floods were beginning in the Nile River delta. They long believed that Sothis caused the Nile floods; and they discovered that the heliacal rising of the star occurred at intervals of 365.25 days rather than the 365 days of their calendar year, a correction in the length of the year that was later incorporated in the Julian calendar. Among the ancient Romans, the hottest part of the year was associated with the heliacal rising of the Dog Star, a connection that survives in the expression “ dog days.”

      That Sirius is a binary star was first reported by the German astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (Bessel, Friedrich Wilhelm) in 1844. He had observed that the bright star was pursuing a slightly wavy course among its neighbours in the sky and concluded that it had a companion star, with which it revolved in a period of about 50 years. The companion was first seen in 1862 by Alvan Clark, an American astronomer and telescope maker.

      Sirius and its companion revolve together in orbits of considerable eccentricity and with average separation of the stars of about 20 times the Earth's distance from the Sun. Despite the glare of the bright star, the seventh-magnitude companion is readily seen with a large telescope. This companion star, known as Sirius B, is about as massive as the Sun, though much more condensed, and was the first white dwarf star to be discovered.

      first ship to cross the Atlantic entirely under steam. Built originally for service in the Irish Sea, the 703-ton Sirius, a side-wheeler, was chartered by the British & American Steam Navigation Company and sailed from London to New York by way of Cork in 1838 with 40 passengers. Her fuel ran out just short of her destination, but her captain, determined to complete the passage under steam, refused to hoist the ship's sails and, instead, fed spars into the furnace. Sandy Hook, New Jersey, was sighted in time to avert a potential mutiny, and the Sirius beat the much larger Great Western to New York by a few hours. In addition to establishing a crossing record, the Sirius introduced an important technical innovation, a condenser to recover the fresh water used in the boiler.

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Universalium. 2010.

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