Monday, March 14, 2011

Canis Major, the Big Dog

Orion's hunting companion in the sky, Canis Major or the Big Dog, follows along to the left of the great hunter. Canis Major's brightest star, Sirius, is also the brightest star we can see from Earth. The constellation is extremely easy to find. If you connect the dots of the three stars in Orion's belt and continue that line to the left, you will run into Sirius, the Dog Star.

When Orion was placed up in the sky only to be trampled by the Bull each night (with Seven Sister's on its back), he asked the gods if he could bring his favorite hunting dogs with him to fend off the bull. Unfortunately for him, the dogs don't seem to be helping. The Little Dog (Canis Minor) is chasing after a Unicorn (the constellation Monoceros), while the Big Dog is barking after a little bunny rabbit (the constellation Lepus the Hare) at Orion's feet.

Canis Major's others stars include Mirzam, Wezen, Aludra, Adhara, and Furud - all Arabic names. Mirzam is "The Announcer" since it rises before Sirius crests the evening horizon. But I like Wezen which means "Weight". An old Arab legend says that this star seems heavy in that it rises from the horizon with great difficulty.