Dog Days of Summer

by Nita Holstine

When our days turn to sizzle and swelter, we call it the Dog Days of Summer. From the first week of July to the middle of August, we have summer at its worst. The days are at or very near 100F every day and often the lows don't fall below 80. Usually the days are humid but this past winter and spring were extremely dry and our damp days have been few and far between.

We are in the south so swamp coolers were often the way to stay cool during the summer. Swamp refers to the water the air moves through to cool it down. When the air outside is damp, wet air is miserable and not at all cool. We'd then need a refrigerated unit that will also pull the moisture out of the air. (Note: We are now at July 29, 2006 and right at the hottest day of the year, the average high has stayed at 95, yesterday was 96 and we've now gone back to 95. We'll be there just a few more days and start the downward trend. The tomatoes have cooked on the vines and the sun so hot, a person could not stay out but for a few minutes at a time.) This heatwave look to be spread across the country. The evening news shows city busses carting around folks so they can stay cool in the a/c of the bus. Check out the public libraries. They are always packed when it is miserably hot.


CLICK HERE: A Pair of Dogs Romp Across Our Starry Sky


The "Big Dog" is one of the major constellations recognized and is called Canis Major; and the brightest star within this constellation is Sirius. When two constellations are aligned as seen from the Earth, it is a period called conjunction. The Earth, Sirius and the sun are perfectly aligned. This period of 20 days before and 20 days after this conjunction is referred to as the "dog days of summer" and this translates roughly to a timeframe of July 3 to August 11, though this can vary. Over many years, the alignment of stars and constellations has shifted formation and this process, known as the precession of the equinoxes, accounts for the discrepancy of the exact days of this event. Since Sirius is an extremely bright star, (it is twice the size of the sun and 20 times as luminous) ancient followers thought that its heat combined with the sun was causing this extra warm condition. Thus, the term "dog days of summer" came to be.