Sirius – the Star

Recently, I was awake before sunrise, and I spotted the constellation Orion in the southeast just before sunrise. This was at Kansas City’s Kosher Barbecue Competition and Festival, Sunday, August 21, 2016.

Follow Orion’s belt Earthward and you see the star Sirius, apparently the brightest star in the sky (in the Northern hemisphere, at least, where I am).

The constellation Orion has been “behind” the Sun until recently. Before that, it was blotted out by the daytime sky. Even Sirius is too faint to be seen (with the naked eye, at least) during daytime.

Sirius skims the horizon. It’s not part of a zodiacal constellation as Orion is. Sirius is not in the path of the Moon or the planets, for example.

I noticed the distinctive Orion and located Sirius by 5:45 AM Daylight Time. Sirius was in an east-southeast direction while the sun was rising in the northeast. Sirius was visible until 6:15 AM or so. By that time, the sky was too bright for the naked eye to detect Sirius. The sun actually rose at about 6:38 AM.

When I first noticed Sirius, is was about a handbreadth above the horizon but finally reached about another handbreadth higher.

Who cares? What difference does it make?

Besides interesting me – a star that is easily seen and that skims the horizon – the first sighting of Sirius marked the beginning of the ancient Egyptian year. Sirius first reappears from “behind” the sun during the inundation season of the Nile River. In the near future, the Nile’s waters recede from having flooded Egypt’s agricultural land, and have deposited fresh silt. Egyptian agriculture begins again.

This fresh silt is the source of Egypt’s agricultural fertility. Egyptians harvested at least two crops during the growing season. With irrigation from the Nile, they often harvested a third crop. Egypt had been the breadbasket of the region. Egyptians regularly exported surplus wheat.

Awake, O Egypt, awake.

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