Siriusly Pondering

In an earlier posting we looked at the question of a ‘Dark Star’ or Nemesis companion:

Along the way that posting wandered past the local stellar group and who orbits whom. (One link in it is to a neat animation of the local stars. In that, Sirius is the larger bluer star a bit below and not too far from us.)

My conclusion was that most likely we orbited the local center of mass, but that things tend to move a lot and some stars are whizzing past at decent speed, so maybe ‘orbit’ isn’t the best description.

Yet I didn’t really address the root question that tickled the pondering. Might we be orbiting with a nearby star in some more stable way? And does the idea of precession “have issues” enough to make it a bit broken.

One of the major candidates for such a ‘binary companion’ is Sirius. The Dog Star. The star that makes folks ‘star struck’.

The wiki says it’s moving, but then again, that’s a wiki and subject to “consensus corruption” where new ideas go to die, murdered by the preponderance of small minds… and the excess zeal of the smallest of them.

Radial velocity (Rv) −7.6[2] km/s
Proper motion (μ) RA: −546.05 mas/yr
Dec.: −1223.14 mas/yr

So it’s moving toward us (or we toward it) at a little under 8 km / second. The right ascension is changing by about 1/2 arc seconds / year and the declination by about 1 1/5 arc seconds / year. Not a lot, but still not static. It also isn’t clear to me how well ‘proper motion’ is corrected for the motions of the earth ( the wiki says measured from the center of mass of the solar system) so something ‘invariant’ in our sky in terms of precession might well have a ‘proper motion’ number that looks like motion.

At the same time the stars can be observed to move slightly retrograde, at the rate of about 50 arc seconds per year, a phenomenon known as the “precession of the equinox”

As I understand it, the “proper motion” is what is left after correcting out the effects of earth movements, so that 50 arc seconds of “precession” is already removed. Which implies that viewed from earth, we ought to see that 50 arc seconds of precession in Sirius. (And, I think, some declination change as well due to things like Chandler Wobble and obliquity changes).

Which is all well and good. Except. There are other folks who say they don’t see that motion. So “Who to believe?” comes to mind.

Looking at the animation here:

It does look like a fairly uniform field of 32 ‘nearby stars’. But put your cursor over the redish ones, and you find a lot of them are fractions of a solar mass. Some down at 1/10 others at 3/10. The bulk of the mass is in Procyon and Sirius with some in Alpha Centauri (but it is cruising through pretty fast from below). So I can see a case of there being mostly offsetting masses in the dwarfs, and with a large mass for some excess attraction in the direction of the two blue ones, relatively near each other, in the Sirius group and the Procyon star. At good 3 solar masses in Sirius A/B and another 1.5 in Procyon. Total near 4.5 solar masses. Makes those ‘tenths’ sized dwarfs a bit less important.

Some folks have asserted that Sirius doesn’t precess, while other folks say it does, and that’s why the Nile Floods no longer happen just after Sirius has a Heliacal Rising. Looking into that, it is a bit harder to sort out. The old Egyptian calendar(s) are a bit complex anyway, then we have the Julian / Gregorian offsets to track…

A tablet from the reign of First Dynasty King Djer (c. 3000 BC) was conjectured by early Egyptologists to indicate that the Egyptians had already established a link between the heliacal rising of Sirius (Egyptian Sopdet, Greek Σείριος Seirios) and the beginning of the year. However, more recent analysis of the pictorial scene on this tablet has questioned whether it actually refers to Sothis at all. Current knowledge of this period remains a matter more of speculation than of established fact.

So right off the bat, we’ve got 4 names for the same star. “Sothis”? Yup…

The Egyptians may have used a luni-solar calendar at an earlier date, with the intercalation of an extra month regulated either by the heliacal rising of Sothis or by the inundation of the fields by the Nile. The first inundation according to the calendar was observed in Egypt’s first capital, Memphis, at the same time as the heliacal rising of Sirius. The Egyptian year was divided into the three seasons of akhet (Inundation), peret (Growth – Winter) and shemu (Harvest – Summer).

The heliacal rising of Sothis returned to the same point in the calendar every 1,460 years (a period called the Sothic cycle). The difference between a seasonal year and a civil year was therefore 365 days in 1,460 years, or one day in four years. Similarly, the Egyptians were aware that 309 lunations nearly equaled 9,125 days, or 25 Egyptian years, which was later used in the construction of a secondary lunar calendar that did not depend on observations

And we’ve got some lousy leap year handling and we’ve got at least 3 different calendars. (Lunar, Agricultural, and Heliacal) The Agricultural being based on the inundation.

It goes downhill from there, as we’ve got the Romans coming in and mucking about. Making changes. Adding a leap year, then Augustus introduces the Alexandrian calendar…

Ptolemaic and Roman

According to Roman writer Censorinus, the Egyptian New Year’s Day fell on July 20 in the Julian Calendar in 139 CE, which was a heliacal rising of Sirius in Egypt. From this it is possible to calculate that the previous occasion on which this occurred was 1322 BC, and the one before that was 2782 BCE. This latter date has been postulated as the time when the calendar was invented, but Djer’s reign preceded that date.

In 238 BCE, the Ptolemaic rulers decreed that every 4th year should be 366 days long rather than 365. The Egyptians, most of whom were farmers, did not accept the reform, as it was the agricultural seasons that made up their year. The reform eventually went into effect with the introduction of the “Alexandrian calendar” by Augustus in 26/25 BCE, which included a 6th epagomenal day for the first time in 22 BCE. This almost stopped the movement of the first day of the year, 1 Thoth, relative to the seasons, leaving it on 29 August in the Julian calendar except in the year before a Julian leap year, when a 6th epagomenal day occurred on 29 August, shifting 1 Thoth to 30 August.

It continues on from there with even more updates and changes. The “reformed” calendar… But we do get one useful bit here. That in 139 AD we had a Sirius rising on July 20th. Julian Calendar. So how to align that with today and compare it to the expected precession? Now Sirius rises on about August 1st to 3rd (it depends on where you are at):

Latitude	HR Date
38	8/9/2010
37	8/8/2010
36	8/7/2010
35	8/6/2010
34	8/5/2010
33	8/4/2010
32	8/3/2010
31	8/2/2010
30	8/2/2010
29	8/1/2010

So what latitude is Egypt? Well, we need to pick one… The wiki for Cairo says it is at 30 degrees N, so August 2nd. But that’s in Gregorian time… Which has some offset from Julian.

Julian reform
Realignment of the year

The first step of the reform was to realign the start of the calendar year (1 January) to the tropical year by making 46 BC (708 AUC) 445 days long, compensating for the intercalations which had been missed during Caesar’s pontificate. This year had already been extended from 355 to 378 days by the insertion of a regular intercalary month in February. When Caesar decreed the reform, probably shortly after his return from the African campaign in late Quintilis (July), he added 67 more days by inserting two extraordinary intercalary months between November and December.

These months are called Intercalaris Prior and Intercalaris Posterior in letters of Cicero written at the time; there is no basis for the statement sometimes seen that they were called “Undecimber” and “Duodecimber”. Their individual lengths are unknown, as is the position of the Nones and Ides within them.

Because 46 BC was the last of a series of irregular years, this extra-long year was, and is, referred to as the “last year of confusion”. The new calendar began operation after the realignment had been completed, in 45 BC.

So a lot of this comes down to just how good you think that Julian “fix” was… But by a bit short of 200 years later, it ought to have been off by a fractional day. The wiki goes on at some length from there, as the months got the numbers of days shifted a bit, and the exact timing of the ‘leap day’ wandered, and some more.

Yet we’ve got ‘on the order of’ 12 days of drift from about July 20 to August 2 or 3.

Precession is a little bit variable, but runs about 26,000 years, so would give about 26 degrees of precession by now. At 365 days / 360 degrees in a one year rotation, that ends up about 26 days ( IFF I’ve not screwed something up somewhere).

Gee, 26 days is different from 12 days. Not enough to say flat out “we orbit it”, but enough to say that there’s an issue with simple precession and there’s at least a partial orbital motion going on. As a first ‘sanity check’ measure, it says there’s something happening.

Are there any other lines of evidence for Sirius not being on a nice regular precession?

The Sothic cycle or Canicular period is a period of 1,461 ancient Egyptian years (of 365 days each) or 1,460 Julian years (averaging 365.25 days each). During a Sothic cycle, the 365-day year loses enough time that the start of the year once again coincides with the heliacal rising of the star Sirius (the Latinized name for Greek Σείριος, a star called Sopdet by the Egyptians, in Greek transcribed as Sothis; a single year between heliacal risings of Sothis is a Sothic year). This rising occurred within a month or so of the beginning of the Nile flood, and was a matter of primary importance to this agricultural society. It is believed that Ancient Egyptians followed both a 365-day civil calendar and a lunar religious calendar.

So they had ‘calendar drift’ relative to the Agricultural calendar, which was set via Sirius rising and the floods. We are looking for just what date, more or less, inundation came then, and comes now (and has it changed?)

The ancient Egyptian civil year was 365 days long, and apparently did not have any intercalary days added to keep it in alignment with the Sothic year, a kind of sidereal year. Normally, a sidereal year is considered to be 365.25636 days long, but that only applies to stars on the ecliptic, or the apparent path of the Sun. Because Sirius lies ~40˚ below the ecliptic, the wobbling of the celestial equator and hence of the horizon at the latitude of Egypt, as well as the proper motion of the star, causes the Sothic year to be slightly smaller. Indeed, it is almost exactly 365.25 days long, the average number of days in a Julian year.

OK… so we have a stellar year that’s just about perfectly matched to the solar year. I’m not quite seeing how the wobble of the axis can make an orbit shorter or longer by any but a trivial amount, and certainly not over 2000 years or so…

This cycle was first noticed by Eduard Meyer in 1904, who then carefully combed known Egyptian inscriptions and written materials to find any mention of the calendar dates when Sirius rose. He found six of them, on which the dates of much of the conventional Egyptian chronology are based. A heliacal rise of Sirius was recorded by Censorinus as having happened on the Egyptian New Year’s Day, between AD 139 and 142. The record actually refers to July 21 of 140 AD but is astronomically calculated as a definite July 20 of 139 AD. This correlates the Egyptian calendar to the Julian calendar. Leap day occurs in 140 AD, and so the new year, Thoth 1, is July 20 in 139 AD but it is July 19 in 140-142 AD. Thus he was able to compare the day on which Sothis rose in the Egyptian calendar to the day on which Sothis ought to have risen in the Julian calendar, count the number of intercalary days needed, and determine how many years were between the beginning of a cycle and the observation. One also needs to know the place of observation, since the latitude of the observation changes the day when the heliacal rising of Sirius occurs, and mislocating an observation can potentially change the resulting chronology by several decades. Meyer concluded from an ivory tablet from the reign of Djer that the Egyptian civil calendar was created in 4241 BC, a date that appears in a number of old books. But research and discoveries have since shown that the first dynasty of Egypt did not begin before c.3100 BC, and the claim that 4241 BC (July 19) is the “earliest fixed date” has since been discredited. Most scholars either move the observation upon which he based this forward by one cycle of Sothis to 2781 (July 19), or reject the assumption that the document in question indicates a rise of Sothis at all

Okay… starting to sound like a bit of a mess to me. We’ve got what looks like a lack of precession, some handwaving, and then a lot of jiggling the Egyptian dates to place history…

But there is this gem:

It has been noticed, and the Sothic cycle confirms, that Sirius does not move retrograde across the sky like other stars, a phenomenon widely known as the precession of the equinox. As prof. Jed Buchwald has pointed “Sirius remains about the same distance from the equinoxes — and so from the solstices — throughout these many centuries, despite precession.”
For the same reason, the helical rising (or zenith) of Sirius does not slip through the calendar (at the precession rate of about one day per 71.6 years), as other stars do. This remarkable stability within the solar year may be one reason that the Egyptians used it as a basis for their calendar whereas no other star would have sufficed.

The lunisolar theory of precession requires that the earth wobble enough to lose one complete rotation on its axis and one revolution around the sun (relative to the fixed stars) per precession cycle. Modern astronomers now measure the rate of precession via radio telescopes fixed on distant quasars and a process known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) confirms the earth changes orientation to the stars at about 50.3 arc seconds p/y, equating to one complete precession of the equinox in about 25,700 years. Nonetheless, Sirius, due to its proper motion, remains practically stationary making it the ideal marker for ancient Egyptian planning purposes.

Now how in the heck do you get a star moving at just exactly the same rate as precession, but relative to all the other stars, and not relative to the earth, where precession is supposedly centered? I’m just not seeing how that can happen. For a star, several light years away, to hold still while we shift, it must be moving tangentially rather fast, and, somehow, the N/S motion must cancel the change in relative ’tilt’ of the earth on both the ‘departure’ and ‘return’ parts of the precession. ( i.e. it’s not just the equatorial E/W shift that must cancel, but also the N/S polar shift as the tilted pole wanders). Something seems fishy…

Finds more suspicious things. Like orbital resonances in the outer planets. (Hey, even if they are now called dwarf planets, that’s still a planet…)

Celestial bodies in our Solar System show harmonic resonance with the Sirius system. Pluto and Sedna are at an incline to the plane of the solar system of roughly 17°, the same as Sirius. Both have orbital periods of 250 years and 12,000 years, which are at 1:5 and 1:2 resonances with Sirius, respectively (12,000 years is roughly one half of the orbit of the Sun around Sirius, hence a 1:2 resonance).

Resonance is a criterion stipulated for any system of orbiting bodies, which is why planets and moons are often times tidally locked with their parent body, and is another reason why the hypothesis of a putative wobble is very unappealing. A wobble is indicative of dynamic instability, not harmonic resonance (think of a spinning top before it falls, it begins to wobble).

Sirius is a binary system. Sirius A is the highly visible star, but there is a companion known as Sirius B, first described in modern times by the Dogon tribe of Mali (Africa) and subsequently verified by the observational science of astronomers. The Dogon also described a third celestial body with characteristics of a neutron star. While a neutron wouldn’t be visible in the same manner as Sirius B, the combined gravitational attraction of a neutron star, a white giant star and a white dwarf would certainly provide the gravitational force needed to keep the Sun bound at a distance of 8.6 light years. In fact, the presence of a neutron star is by no means necessary for the gravitational interaction of the Sun with Sirius.

It goes on to assert that a shaft in the Great Pyramid is aimed right at Sirius and so it must have been stable for thousands of years. And more…

This information by itself raises serious questions about the validity of the “Wobble Hypothesis”. However the major flaw of this hypothesis comes from an examination of the static position of the star Sirius in relation to precession and its historical utilization as a marker for time in the Sothic Calendar of the Egyptians.

From Africa, where the Dogons live, the star Sirius disappears below the horizon and is out of sight for a couple of months; then it appears again on the morning of July 23, when it rises about one minute before the Sun. It appears bright ruby-red, just above the horizon, almost exactly due east. Sixty seconds later the Sun emerges. So you can see Sirius for just a moment, then it’s gone. This is called the helical rising of Sirius, which was a very important moment for most of the ancient world, not just for the Dogons and Egypt.

This is the moment when Sirius and the Sun and the Earth are in a straight line across space. In Egypt, almost all the temples were aligned with this line, including the gaze of the Sphinx. Many of the temples had a tiny hole in the wall somewhere; then there would be another wall and another, going into some dim inner chamber. In that chamber there would be something like a cube or Golden Mean rectangle of granite sitting in the middle of the room with a little mark on it. At the moment of the heliacal rising of Sirius, a ruby-red light would strike the altar for a few seconds, which would begin their new year and the first day of the ancient Sothic calendar of Egypt.

The periodicity of the helical rising of Sirius was such that the Egyptians based their calendar on it [right]. Every year for millennia the appearance of Sirius coincided with the flooding of the Nile, an event that remarkably still happens to this day.

So how can we have very old buildings with a stellar pinhole projector that still works if their is precession?

Then there are some folks who have taken modern measurements:

Sirius Transit Data

[This page was updated June 19, 2012.]
Why Does Sirius Move in the Opposite Direction to Precession?
Why Does the Rate of Sirius Motion Almost Exactly Cancel Precession?

The following graph displays actual measured daily transit readings of Sirius (blue line) and compares these readings to the precession rate (red line) of the rest of the stars in the sky.
This clearly demonstrates that Sirius does not precess. The question is—why does this happen?

Mr. Homann concludes below that:
“These observations clearly indicate that the so-called ‘precession of the earth’ is NOT a scientific fact, and that the Sirius system has a noticeable gravitational influence on our solar system.”

Sirius Transit Data 1988 to 2007

Sirius Transit Data 1988 to 2007

The continuous measurement of 6 April 1994 to 5 April 2000 confirmed this fact conclusively. In that period the total negative deviation of ‘Sirius time’ from the total mean sidereal time accumulated to 4.1 seconds. This means about negative 0.68 s per year (!). Again, according to ‘precession’ a negative time difference of 6 × 3.34 s or about 20 seconds should have occurred, but did NOT occur with respect to Sirius!

We also have more orbital resonance notes:

The meridian transit measurements of Sirius have shown that neither a time difference of 6 × 1223 s, nor a difference of 6 × 3.34 s has occurred over the 6-year observation period from April 1994 to April 2000.
These observations clearly indicate that the so-called ‘precession of the earth’ is NOT a scientific fact, and that the Sirius system has a noticeable gravitational influence on our solar system. Obviously, Newton’s laws of gravitation cannot explain Einstein’s universe. In that respect, it requires further study to see if the 49 year cycle of the Sirius system can provide us with an explanation of the large fluctuations and annual irregularities in earth’s rate of rotation that have also been observed around 1941 by experts at the US Naval Observatory.

Additional Comment:
Two other phenomena should be mentioned that took place during the conjunction of Sirius A, Sirius B and the sun around the beginning of February to the end of March 1989, as the function of the time deviation entered from the negative into the positive range (see Graph 1). During this time our outermost planet Pluto, whose revolution period of 248.421 years is exactly 5.0004 to 1 in relation to the Sirius B – Sirius A’s orbit period of 49.68 years, went through the perihelion of its very eccentric orbit. On 23 March 1989 an 800 m long ‘rock’ came in strikingly close proximity to our earth at a speed of about 70.000 km/h. Missing our earth by only a few hours – thereby sparing us a gigantic catastrophe – it also went through its perihelion between sun and Sirius. Thanks to astronomers, who discovered it as it already disappeared again into the vastness of space, a major widespread panic was avoided. These celestial phenomena are not subject to plain coincidence, but are lawful celestial mechanical events. In fact, the Sirius system determines the second (empty) focus point, which is essential for the elliptic orbits of these and other celestial bodies in our solar system. Keep in mind that even our earth has its perihelion around January 2, as it passes through the conjunction of sun and Sirius each year.

There are other pages, with similar ideas, but I think these give enough evidence.

There’s something odd about Sirius. It looks like we are at minimum gravitationally bound, and at most orbiting each other in an extended system.

Yet the last flood of the Nile was in June in 1964 as the damns were being built. June is a ways off from August, some something still isn’t quite right here. Then again, the flood depends on when it rains in Ethiopia, and perhaps that isn’t as regular as the stars and sky.

In Conclusion

I’m still not satisfied that things are resolved enough. To many loose ends. But it’s very late, and I need to wrap this up for now. Yet it really wants a chart of just when the floods came, and when Sirius rises through the last millennium or so.

What I think is most likely is that we do co-orbit with Sirius, but a little less strictly than for a strict binary system. (Yet enough for holes in pyramids to stay aligned).

But the ancient calendars are ‘messed up’ and the modern floods have ended decades past.

Is it just a profound coincidence of the proper motion of Sirius? Perhaps, but I can’t see how…

It looks more likely that our proper motion includes a very slow orbital component, for the entire solar system, about some large mass near Sirius A / B.

Perhaps after a bit of a rest I can find more…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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23 Responses to Siriusly Pondering

  1. Ian W says:

    What puzzles me is why did the ancients identify Sirius in a way that we have not today – given their lifespans and the (supposed) lack of recorded history how would they have recorded flood dates and then correlated them with Sirius?
    Sirius is not the only stellar interest; many of the old cultures worldwide seem to have an unexpected interest in the Pleiades – a relatively insignificant group of stars. Did some event occur that made continual watch of the Pleiades important to them?

  2. Judy F. says:


    The first thing that jumped out at me was the 1460 year Sothic cycle. It is curiously close to the 1470 year Bond cycle.

    The second thing was how advanced the knowledge of astronomy and mathematics was for these supposedly “primitive” societies. We have seen before where the archeologists have found ruins and remnants of societies extending past the dates we had previously accepted. I think most people think that ancient societies were mostly pastoral and simple, yet we find incredible math, engineering and astronomical skills that are far beyond what could be passed down just sitting around a campfire. How long did it take for someone to notice that Sirius glowed red 60 seconds before sunrise, then to notice that the Nile flooded at the same time, and then be able to build a complex temple with an accurate astronomical pinhole? Is Stonehenge lined up to Sirius, instead of the sun or the moon as previously thought? ( it seems that I remember reading that the alignments of the henges are off if they are lunar or celestial oriented, with the passage of years)

    As always, incredibly thought provoking, EM

  3. Ian W says:

    As it happens………..

    Around the same time, my fellow lecturer Alan Alford published an article in which he restated certain facts and ideas about Stonehenge. The builders of Stonehenge exhibited a remarkable knowledge of astronomy. The rectangle formed by the four Station Stones marks an exact alignment to the eight key points of the 18.6 year cycle of the Moon. This feature can only occur at the latitude of Stonehenge. This knowledge might have been incorporated into the landscape as early as 8000 BC, when the earliest construction on Stonehenge – but not as we know it today – began. More interestingly, archaeologist John North in a recent study on the monument, stated that the Avenue, a two mile long earthen causeway that connects the site to the river Avon, was, in 3180 BC, aligned to Sirius. Professor Gerald Hawkins has stated that the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan is aligned on a Sirius-Pleiades axis.

    And note not only Sirius but also the Pleiades (again)

    There must be a reason for this interest in Sirius and the Pleiades.

  4. Ian W says:

    I should add that many years ago I made a bit of a study of Stonehenge and the fascinating part to me was as stated above – “The rectangle formed by the four Station Stones marks an exact alignment to the eight key points of the 18.6 year cycle of the Moon. This feature can only occur at the latitude of Stonehenge.

    So an ancient culture works out the latitude in their world they can put an astronomical ‘calculator’ ?

    To quote Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreampt of in your philosophy”

  5. DirkH says:

    Well everybody knows that Sirius is special. Even if you’ve spent the last few thousand years at a sand stone cliff in Mali.
    ” The Dogon name for Sirius B is Po Tolo. It means star – tolo and smallest seed – po. Seed refers to creation. In this case, perhaps human creation. By this name they describe the star’s smallness. It is, they say, the smallest thing there is. They also claim that it is ‘the heaviest star’ and is white in color. The Dogon thus attribute to Sirius B its three principal properties as a white dwarf: small, heavy, white.”

    They got their knowledge from the Nommos they say…
    “The Dogon reportedly related to Griaule and Dieterlen a belief that the Nommos were inhabitants of a world circling the star Sirius. “

  6. J Martin says:

    You linked to a page about Sirius on the Binary Research site, but they also do a really really good introduction to planet Earth’s (non) precession and how it is in fact our solar system orbiting another solar system, star or heavy object (brown dwarf).

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    Per the Pleiades (from the wiki) we find it’s a Vernal Equinox thing… in 2400 BC or so…

    The Pleiades are a prominent sight in winter in the Northern Hemisphere and in summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and have been known since antiquity to cultures all around the world, including the Māori, Aboriginal Australians, the Persians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Maya, the Aztec, and the Sioux and Cherokee. In Tamil culture this star cluster is attributed to Lord Murugan (Lord Murugan raised by the six sisters known as the Kārththikai Pengal and thus came to be known as Kārtikeyan), in Sanskrit he is noted as Skanda.

    The Nebra sky disk, dated c. 1600 BC. The cluster of dots near the upper right portion of the disk is believed to be the Pleiades.

    The Babylonian star catalogues name them MUL.MUL or “star of stars”, and they head the list of stars along the ecliptic, reflecting the fact that they were close to the point of vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC. The earliest known depiction of the Pleiades is likely a bronze age artifact known as the Nebra sky disk, dated to approximately 1600 BC. Some Greek astronomers considered them to be a distinct constellation, and they are mentioned by Hesiod, and in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. They are also mentioned four times in the Bible (Job 9:9 and 38:31, as well as Amos 5:8 and Revelation 3:1). The Pleiades (Krittika) are particularly revered in Hindu mythology as the six mothers of the war god Murugan, who developed six faces, one for each of them. Some scholars of Islam suggested that the Pleiades (Ats-tsuraiya) are the Star in Najm, which is mentioned in the Quran.

    Similarly, Orion can be used to set another of the key calendar points when it rises / sets; just a long time ago… when all those Orion outlined structures were being built. During later times there was a big fuss over the precession of the Equinox when the Mithraic Mystery school popped up:

    Their iconography has a bull being slain… the transition of Taurus out of importance as precession was recognized… The Pleiades are in Taurus.

    Oh, and we get Taurid Meteor Showers (that were much worse in the past when Enke was still large and lots more rubble was ‘incoming’ instead of ‘gone already’)… So not only was it an equinox thing, but there were good odds of a big comet and lots of meteor showers. Unlike now, not just decorative, but enough to destroy some cities. (It is thought that a Taurid storm caused some of the big name destructions of history…)

    So that’s “why the Pleiades”….

    As per Sirius:

    It looks like folks who had trouble sleeping sat up at night and looked at the sky. For hundreds of thousands of years. Over time, they noticed things. The “Helaical rising” has a nice little red flash to it. That would be noticed by Shepards in the fields. (Just about morning, time for shift change!). After about 6000 BC when everyone had to abandon the Sahara Grasslands as they were becoming a desert, and all cozy up next to the Nile, that it came just before the flood would also be noticed. As the inundation determined if folks lived or died (water and fertilizer for the fields) anything that lets you time it accurately would be ‘special’. After that, making temples to make spotting the ‘flash of red’ easier is a natural consequence.

    Gee… farmers with insomnia… where have I seen that before ;-)

    (Dad was a farm kid, who often sat up at night. I sit up at night – this posting being done between midnight and 4 am. I like gardening… and would love to have a toy farm…)

    Now look at some of the incredible screw ups in the “official” Government Calendars listed above (and that’s not the half of it!). Would you, as a farmer, want to entrust your bread and ox to a government that gets the calendar off by a few months? So even after the romans “fixed” the calendar, the locals in Egypt continued to use the old trusty Sirius Rising one… the Agricultural calendar….

    So, IMHO, the reason for the henges and the watching the constellations and the equinox and solstices was just a bunch of farmers doing their own calendar and the sailors doing their own navigation. Only later did government and “priests” and all try to horn in on the action (and not always all that well, btw…) Were I suddenly endowed with a dozen acres, one of the first things I’d do is put in a small circle of poles and make a solar / stellar / lunar calendar and clock. Then it’s just walk out the door, and look at the shadows or the stars vs poles and know exactly what season it is, what week it is, and what’s next on the ‘to do’ list. Even if there is ‘unseasonal’ weather or even clouds obscuring things for weeks. (One good sighting, then after that you just move a stone each day until the next good sighting…) Why? Well, you know, a bit of grog, or a long week or three off at ‘the market’ (wink wink nudge nudge) a fellow can lose track of just where he is in the planting calendar! (They were not industrial farmers then, they had to have some food coming out of the garden most of the time, year round. So a complex seasonal garden rotation was common. You still see that today in subsistence gardens where ‘winter radishes and turnips’ have to be ‘in the ground’ at the right time or you will be mighty hungry when the root cellar runs out late winter… )

    In some places, the season for growing can be within days of the limit of the crops, so being off a few days can upset yields. For multiple crops, especially, when trying to shoehorn in every last rotation…

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ian W:

    What started me on my interest in ancient metrology was Stonehenge. I did a ‘report’ on it in about 4th or 5th grade. (Still have it in a box somewhere…) I was hooked. Ever since then, on and off, I’ve been trying to work out the parts where, in my report, I had to put “we don’t know” or “folks made stuff up” ;-)

    BTW, in the time of the ancient Roman Emperors and the Republic, Rome sent their students off to England to learn astronomy and navigation from the Druids who ran large colleges. We have this in written records from Rome. Yet folks, knowing full well that the schools had tens of thousands of students, persist is saying the large gatherings at the henges were “ceremonial”…

    It was damn astonavigation college…

    Better than anyone else in the ancient world, known throughout the ancient world, and with graduates piloting Roman ships…

    I suspect “wood henge” was for the undergraduates and stone henge for the doctoral classes…

    That is also WHY there are several henges scattered around the UK. Various universities…

    @J. Martin:

    Thanks! I wanted to chase down the “not using precession inside the solar system” comments I’d seen, but at 3 AM decided I needed more typing and less wandering / searching… ;-)

  9. Andrew says:

    Fascinating reading, Thank you!

    don’t miss the first installment

    zoomable rotatable local starmap

    interesting side notes:
    who is on the cover of Sgt Peppers (at the req. of George H.)
    Appears on the upper left of the crowd behind The Beatles.
    one of Sri Yukteswar Giri’s disciples was:

  10. J Martin says:

    Some idle speculation.

    Pluto and Sedna are at an incline to the plane of the solar system of roughly 17°, the same as Sirius

    So did our Sun capture Pluto and Sedna from Sirius, round about the time the 41k world glaciations stopped and instead now last for 2 or 3 precessions, courtesy of Sirius.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    Ooh, I like this bit:

    Another problem with current theory is the moon is thought to be the principal force acting upon the oblate earth. However, the moon is slowly receding from the earth (thereby theoretically producing less torque) whereas the precession rate is slowly speeding up (an indication of a greater force at work). Few are aware of the changing rate of precession thus little attention has been paid to the fact that the observable seems to contradict the theory concerning the forces at work. To date, this issue has not been addressed in the literature. (Update: Since we began our work the IAU has come out with resolution P03, which notes that the current lunisolar precession theory “is not consistent with dynamical theory”. We are hopeful this will lead to an acknowledgement that the precession observable includes motion of the solar system relative to the VLBI reference points – and that this recognition will advance the eventual adoption of a precession model that accounts for more than just local dynamics).

    A veritable gold mine of charts and descriptions of years (types) and motions:

    including interesting things to do with sundials… and gnomons…

    There’s a whole lot more in the sequence of pages at that binaryresearchinstitute link…

    @J. Martin:

    See the animation in this page:

  12. John F. Hultquist says:

    You write that “. . . the modern floods have ended decades past.”

    There is the possibility that operations at the many dams on the Nile and its tributaries have been recorded and could provide information sufficient to calculate when “the Nile” would have flooded had those dams not been there. With all the controversies associated with the construction of the Aswan High Dam (completed in 1970) it is a wonder that some NGO or a UN one, or an enviro-one did not do such studies so they could say “We told you so.”
    Totally unrelated but we had a birddog named Sirius Sashay (Shay) that, with a little help from us became both a field and show champion. We were at a field trial on the north edge of Beale AFB east of Yuba City in 1980 or ’81. There was much rain and flooding that week and we all suffered. Shay didn’t win. She was a star, though, because when a bird would fly off the end of a point of land and fly to the next one, she would launch into the flood waters and swim directly across. That was not good form but she was only 2 and used to training on dry grassland.

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    @John F. Hultquist:

    My home town was about 12 miles off the end of the runway at Beale. We would watch SR-71 flights landing and taking off as we were under the approach ;-) Got to watch some fairly low with both engines going at dusk / might and the ‘string of pearls’ balls of fire out the tail… Other times it would “cook out” with sonic booms (back when they were allowed to do that) and I eventually learned that if you heard it in the south, look to the north ;-)

    Went to a show at Beale. Got to look at one on the ground “from a distance”. The guard said I couldn’t take pictures, but I snuck some from a distance anyway… Seems he didn’t understand that you can push the shutter button when the camera is not at eye level ;-) From nose on vantage point, the wings are incredibly thin… Watching them take off was amazing. Looked like nearly a 45 degree angle of attack and barely climbing. I wonder how much was ‘tail sitting’ on the thrust ;-)

    SOP was to take off with low fuel, then immediately hit the tanker to fill up. (Per the folks at the ‘open house’… it wasn’t really a show, as in loads of randoms, more open house for families, friends, and locals).

    Yeah, that area gets a might wet when the rains come…

    Lots of pheasant around there. Nice place to have / train / play with a bird dog. But you know that already ;-)

  14. adolfogiurfa says:

    Are you a Sirian?

    [Reply: Not that I know of. Born in California. Though go far enough back some ancestors are from near Assyria. Does that count? ;-) -E.M.Smith ]

  15. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: What about that the Earth, planets and Sun revolves around Alcyone in the Pleiadan group?

    [Reply: Um, it's 370 light years away... too far for gravitational binding given the mass. We have things nearly as large inside single to double digit light years, so they dominate. Now if you can find a black hole in the Pleiades we might orbit it... but then they would be moving differently... -E.M.Smith]

  16. Paul, Somerset says:

    I love the way the ancients made sure they recorded their essential knowledge using the medium of massive, unalterable stones. What a contrast with today, where temperatures recorded in the past are routinely altered downwards and most of the population relies on the ever shifting pages of wikipedia.for facts and figures.

  17. David says:

    “However, the moon is slowly receding from the earth (thereby theoretically producing less torque) whereas the precession rate is slowly speeding up (an indication of a greater force at work).”

    Yes, the accelerating precesssion rate, along with the apparent fact that objects within the solar system are tracked differently then objects outside the solar system, in conjunction with age old scriptures makes an interesting theory. This, plus the fact that we have only recently began to discover how common dual star systems are is curious. The angular momentum chart at the BRI site is also curious.

  18. Adam Gallon says:

    We’ll have no gravitational link with Sirius, one reason being that it’s only some 300 million years old, compared to some 4.5 billion for our sun.
    Absolutely no chance of Pluto, or any Trans-Neptunian being anything to do with the Sirius system. All would have originated in our solar nebula, potential pertubations from passing stars during the billions of years that our system’s been around, account for any oddities in orbital angles etc.
    Sirius is, of course, a binary, Sirius A being an A class star, its companion, Sirius B, a White dwarf.
    Ptolemy is recorded as noting Sirius as being red, other contempory observers have it a s being bluish.
    Our ancestors, before the “benefit” of artificial light, would have a lot of time to spend studying the stars.

  19. David says:

    More likely , if we have a companion, it would be a small cool brown dwarf currently in the eliptic of the milky way.

  20. Heber Rizzo says:

    Hi, Chiefio:

    I am 61, so I am running short of time, and there is so much to learn!

    But, fortunately, I found your page to lead me into new thougths and marvels. Thank you.

    Greetings from Tenerife, and Happy New Year

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