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Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. The name "Sirius" is derived from the Ancient Greek: Σείριος Seirios ("glowing" or "scorcher"). The star has the Bayer designation Alpha Canis Majoris (α CMa). What the naked eye perceives as a single star is actually a binary star system, consisting of a white main-sequence star of spectral type A1V, termed Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf companion of spectral type DA2, called Sirius B. The distance separating Sirius A from its companion varies between 8.1 and 31.5 AU. Sirius appears bright because of both its intrinsic luminosity and its proximity to Earth. At a distance of 2.6 parsecs (8.6 ly), as determined by the Hipparcos astrometry satellite, the Sirius system is one of Earth's near neighbors; for Northern-hemisphere observers between 30 degrees and 73 degrees of latitude (including almost all of Europe and North America), it is the closest star (after the Sun) that can be seen with a naked eye. Sirius is gradually moving closer to the Solar System, so it will slightly increase in brightness over the next 60,000 years. After that time its distance will begin to recede, but it will continue to be the brightest star in the Earth's sky for the next 210,000 years.


Many cultures have historically attached special significance to Sirius, particularly in relation to dogs. Indeed, it is often colloquially called the "Dog Star" as the brightest star of Canis Major, the "Great Dog" constellation. It was classically depicted as Orion the Hunter's dog, as it trails the Orion constellation. The Ancient Greeks thought that Sirius's emanations could affect dogs adversely, making them behave abnormally during the "dog days", the hottest days of the summer. In Chinese astronomy the star is known as the star of the "celestial wolf". Many nations among the indigenous peoples of North America also associated Sirius with canines; the Seri and Tohono O'odham of the southwest note the star as a dog that follows mountain sheep, while the Blackfoot called it "Dog-face". The Cherokee paired Sirius with Antares as a dog-star guardian of either end of the "Path of Souls". The Pawnee of Nebraska had several associations; the Wolf (Skidi) tribe knew it as the "Wolf Star", while other branches knew it as the "Coyote Star". Further north, the Alaskan Inuit of the Bering Strait called it "Moon Dog". Some cultures also associate the star with a bow and arrows.