The long, hot days of summer are rising before us and bring many opportunities for adventures with our courageous canine companions. But why do some call this period the dog days of summer? Well, as with many things, we have the Greeks to thank. But let’s look at the timing of the days first.
Various computations of the dog days in the northern hemisphere have placed their start anywhere from July 3 to August 15 and lasting for anywhere from 30 to 61 days depending upon latitude.
The “dog days,” I always thought, were those summer days so devastatingly hot that even dogs would lie around panting.
Many people today use the phrase to mean something like that—but originally, the phrase actually had nothing to do with dogs, or even with the lazy days of summer. Instead, it turns out, the dog days refer to the dog star, Sirius, and its position in the heavens.
To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year.
So, did the Greeks get it right? Are the dog days, around when Sirius rises, really the hottest days of the year?
Although July and August are generally known as the hottest months of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the hottest period can vary from year to year. And depending on your latitude, the astronomical dog days can come at different times.
There’s another reason that the dog days don’t correspond neatly with the heat: the stars in Earth’s night sky shift independently of our calendar seasons.
“Our Earth is like a spinning top,” said Bradley Schaefer, professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University. “If you toss it onto a table, after it slows down … the pointing direction of the top will slowly go around in circles.” Similarly to a top, “the Earth’s rotation is kind of wobbling around.”
“The calendar is fixed according to certain events, but the stars have shifted according to the way that the Earth wobbles,” said Larry Ciupik, astronomer at Adler Planetarium and director of the Doane Observatory. “So in about 50-some years, the sky shifts about one degree.”
This means that the dog days of ancient Greece aren’t the dog days of today. What it also means is that several millennia from now, this astrological event won’t even occur during the summer.
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Curated from Instagram’s best featured images of our fearless furry companions, this photo collection showcases canines from around the world donning backpacks for a invigorating hike, navigating a kayaking trip through an icy wonderland, or quietly surveying the forest from the cleft of a moss-covered tree. These courageous pups inspire us all to stretch our legs, breathe deep, and savor the sights, sounds, and textures of the natural world.