Monday, March 4, 2013

Canis Major and Canis Minor, Orion's Sky Dogs

Sirius A and B
The winter southern sky is ablaze with the brightest stars in the sky.  8 of the top 20 brightest stars can be found there awaiting your wishes.  The brightest of them all is Sirius, the nose of Orion's bigger hunting dog, Canis Major.  Sirius is about 23 times brighter than the North Star and scorches the winter sky with a stark white light.  Sirius definitely isn't the biggest star up there - it's just one of the closest.  At about 8.6 light years away, it's really two stars - a faint white dwarf star called Sirius B orbits the main star every 50 years.

Creepy Lookin' Dogs
Up higher and not quite as bright is the little dog star, Procyon.  Procyon weighs in as the eighth brightest star in the sky becuase it's a close one too.  In fact Procyon bears a lot of similarities with Sirius.  At about 11 light years away, this white sub-giant star has a white dwarf star orbiting it as well.

Canis Major, is easy to find.  Use Orion’s belt as a guide.  Connect the dots of the three belt stars and continue the line down and to the left and you will run smack into Sirius.  With a little imagination you can use the semi-bright stars around Sirius to picture the big dog, but with the little dog… it only has two stars in it.  That’s right, it’s a real hot dog!