Canis Minor – the lesser dog

November 26, 2017

Astronomy

The constellation Canis Minor is the lesser dog and it is essentially just two stars, Procyon and Gomeisa. So it’s like one of those wiener dogs I guess.

Orion has a couple of dogs following him around the sky, one of your larger breeds, and the wiener. A lot of people do that. I’m not sure why but I notice as my neighbors walk their dogs by my place, they tend to have a main dog, and then they have a little auxiliary back-up dog. That’s what Orion has going on too.

Three stars make up the Winter Triangle. They are the bright stars of the two dog constellations, Sirius of Canis Major and Procyon of Canis Minor, and the third is Betelgeuse in Orion. It’s a big equilateral triangle and the trio are the brightest stars in the cold winter’s night. Dashing right through the middle of the triangle is Monoceros, which is Orion’s pet unicorn. On allegorical star maps Canis Minor appears as a small dog riding on the unicorn’s back.

In one Greek account Canis Minor represents a dog named Maera which was the loyal sidekick of Icarius, the first guy to make wine. Icarius threw the first wine tasting party and when the guests started getting drunk they assumed they had been poisoned so they killed their gracious host. Then they ate all the cheese and crackers and pâté and left. The loyal dog Maera was pretty upset and to make a long doggy short, he committed suicide. He jumped off of a cliff. It’s a sad story. Sometimes I think if it wasn’t for tragedy the Greeks wouldn’t be able to find their way across the night sky.

The brightest of the two stars that make up the constellation Canis Minor is Procyon which means “pre-dog” in Greek, because it rises before Sirius, the real dog star. The Romans called it the pre-dog star also because they liked to copy the Greeks. Now days the word Procyon is part of the scientific taxonomy of raccoons, I suppose because those pesky varmints look sort of dog-ish.

Procyon has a dim companion star, a white dwarf. They are very close companions, total BFF’s. They are closer than the Sun is to Uranus. They orbit each other once every 40.82 years.

The other star of Canis Minor, the one at the back end of the dog, the part that swings back and forth when happy, is called Gomeisa which means “bleary-eyed lady” or words to that effect. Some Arabs call it Al Jummaiza which means Mulberry Tree even though everyone knows the mulberry is a bush, biological taxonomy not withstanding.

In the language of the Inuit, the same folks with 6,508,347,001 names for snow, Procyon is called “Man who stole food from his neighbors because he was too damn fat to hunt on thin ice.” It’s just a name mind you, not a reference to anyone in particular (glances at Ogluk).

Carpe Noctem

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