Sirius Supplementary Information

Robertino Solàrion
Dallas, Texas
21 February 2001

(Updated 28 December 2003)

Rather than revise the previous essay "Earth's Sirius Connection", I have decided to add this miscellaneous information, more or less for the record, in this separate document. R. Solàrion


Cosmos, Volume III

by Alexander Von Humboldt

(London, 1848), pages 176-182.

The Greek astronomers were acquainted with red stars only, while modern science has discovered, by the aid of the telescope, in the radiant fields of the starry heaven, as in the blossoms of the phanerogamia, and in the metallic oxides, almost all the gradations of the prismatic spectrum between the extremes of refrangibility of the red and the violet ray. Ptolemy enumerates in his catalogue of the fixed stars six ... fiery red stars, viz: [46] Arcturus, Aldebaran, Pollux, Antares, Alpha Orionis (in the right shoulder), and Sirius. ...

[46. The expression 'upokirros', which Ptolemy employs indiscriminately to designate the six stars named in his catalogue, implies a slightly marked transition from fiery-yellow to fiery-red; it therefore refers, strictly speaking, to a fiery-reddish colour. He seems to attach the general predicate 'zanthos', fiery-yellow, to all the other fixed stars. (Almag., viii. 3 ed. Halma, tom. ii. p. 94.) 'Kirros' is, according to Galen (Meth. med. 12), a pale fiery-red inclining to yellow.

Gellius compares the word with 'melinus', which, according to Servius, has the same meaning as 'gilvus' and 'fulvus'. As Sirius is said by Seneca (Nat. Quaest., i. 1) to be redder than Mars, and belongs to the stars in the Almagest 'upokirroi', there can be no doubt that the word implies the predominance, or, at all events, a certain proportion of red rays.

The assertion that the affix 'poikilos', which Aratus, v. 327, attaches to Sirius, has been translated by Cicero as 'rutilus', is erroneous. Cicero says, indeed, v. 348: 'Namque pedes subter rutilo cum luminae claret, Fervidus ille Canis stellarum luce refulgens' ('For it shines over the feet with a fiery reddish glow, This burning Dog of Stars, glittering with light.'); but 'rutilo cum luminae' is not a translation of 'poikilos', but the mere addition of a free translation. (From letters addressed to me by Professor Franz.) "If," as Arago observes (Annuaire, 1842, p. 351), "the Roman orator, in using the term 'rutilus', purposely departs from the strict rendering of the Greek of Aratus, we must suppose that he recognized the reddish character of the light of Sirius."]

Of the six above named stars, five still retain a red to reddish light. Pollux is still indicated as a reddish, but Castor as a greenish star. Sirius therefore affords the only example of an historically proved change of colour, for it has at present a perfectly white light. A great physical revolution[49] must have occurred at the surface or in the photosphere of this fixed star (or remote sun, as Aristarchus of Samos called the fixed stars), before the process could have been disturbed by means of which the less refrangible red rays had obtained the preponderance, through the abstraction or absorption of other complementary rays, either in the photosphere of the star itself, or in the moving cosmical clouds by which it is surrounded.

It is to be wished that the epoch of the disappearance of the red colour of Sirius had been recorded by a definite reference to the time, as this subject has excited a vivid interest in the minds of astronomers since the great advance made in modern optics. At the time of Tycho Brahe the light of Sirius was undoubtedly already white, for when the new star which appeared in Cassiopeia, in 1572, was observed in the month of March, 1573, to change from its previous dazzling white colour to a reddish hue, and again become white in January, 1574, the red appearance of the star was compared to the colour of Mars and Aldebaran, but not to that of Sirius.

M. Sédillot, or other philologists conversant with Arabic and Persian astronomy, may some day succeed in discovering evidence of the earlier colour of Sirius, in the periods intervening from El-Batani (Albategnius) and El-Fergani (Alfraganus) to Abdurrahman Sufi and Ebn-Junis to Nassir-Eddin and Ulugh-Beg (from 1007 to 1437).

[49. Sir John Herschel, in the Edinb. Review, vol. 87, 1848, p. 189, and in Schum. Ast. Nachr., 1839, no. 372: -- "It seems much more likely that in Sirius a red colour should be the effect of a medium interfered, than that in the short space of 2000 years so vast a body should have actually undergone such a material change in its physical constitution. It may be supposed owing to the existence of some sort of cosmical cloudiness, subject to internal movements, depending on causes of which we are ignorant." (Compare Arago in the Annuaire pour 1842, pp. 350-353.)]

El-Fergani (properly Mohammed Ebn-Kethir El-Fergani), who conducted astronomical observations in the middle of the tenth century at Rakka (Aracte) on the Euphrates, indicates as red stars ('stellae ruffae' of the old Latin translation of 1590) Aldebaran, and, singularly enough, Capella, which is now yellow and has scarcely a tinge of red, but he does not mention Sirius.

If at this period Sirius had been no longer red, it would certainly be a striking fact that El-Fergani, who invariably follows Ptolemy, should not here indicate the change of colour in so celebrated a star. Negative proofs are however not often conclusive, and indeed El-Fergani makes no reference in the same passage to the colour of Betelgeux (Alpha Orionis), which is now red, as it was in the age of Ptolemy.

It has long been acknowledged that of all the brightest luminous fixed stars of the heaven, Sirius takes the first and most important place, no less in a chronological point of view, than through its historical association with the earliest development of human civilization in the valley of the Nile. The era of Sothis -- the heliacal rising of Sothis (Sirius) -- on which Biot has written an admirable treatise, indicates according to the most recent investigations of Lepsius[51], the complete arrangements of the Egyptian calendar into those ancient epochs, including nearly 3300 years before our era,

"when not only the summer solstice, and consequently the beginning of the rise of the Nile, but also the heliacal rising of Sothis, fell on the day of the first water-month (or the first Pachon)."

I will collect in a note the most recent, and hitherto unpublished, etymological researches on Sothis or Sirius from the Coptic, Zend, Sanscrit, and Greek, which may be acceptable to those who, from love of the history of astronomy, seek in languages and their affinities, monuments of the earlier conditions of knowledge.[52]

[51. See Chronologie der Aegypter, by Richard Lepsius, bd. i. 1849, s. 190-195, 213. The complete arrangement of the Egyptian calendar is referred to the earlier part of the year 3285 before our era, i.e., about a century and a half after the building of the great pyramid of Cheops-Chufu, and 940 years before the period generally assigned to the Deluge. (Compare Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 475 and note.)

In the calculations based on the circumstance of Colonel Vyse having found that the inclination of the narrow subterranean passage leading into the interior of the pyramid, very nearly corresponded to the angle 26°15', which, in the time of Cheops (Chufu), was attained by the star Alpha Draconis, which indicated the pole, at its inferior culmination at Gizeh, the date of the building of the pyramid is not assumed at 3430 B.C. (Outlines of Astr., section 319.)

This difference of 540 years tends to strengthen the assumption that Alpha Draconis was regarded as the pole-star, as in 3970 it was still at a distance of 3°44' from the pole.]

[52. I have extracted the following observations from letters addressed to me by Professor Lepsius (February, 1850). "The Egyptian name of Sirius is 'Sothis', designated as a female star; hence 'E Sothis' is identified in Greek with the goddess 'Sote' (more frequently 'Sit' in hieroglyphics), and in the temple of the great Ramses at Thebes with Isis-Sothis (Lepsius, Chron. der Aegypter, bd, i. s. 1199, 136). The signification of the root is found in Coptic, and is allied with a numerous family of words, the members of which, although they apparently differ very widely from each other, admit of being arranged somewhat in the following order.

By the threefold transference of the verbal signification, we obtain from the original meaning, to throw out -- 'projicere' ('sagittam', 'telum') -- first, 'seminare', to sow; next, 'extendere', to extend or spread (as spun threads); and lastly, what is here most important, to radiate light and to shine (as stars and fire). From this series of ideas we may deduce the names of the divinities, 'Satis' (the female archer); 'Sothis', the radiating, and 'Seth', the fiery. We may also hieroglyphically explain 'sit' or 'seti', the arrows as well as the ray; 'seta', to spin; 'setu', scattered seeds. 'Sothis' is especially the brightly radiating, the star regulating the seasons of the year and periods of time.

The small triangle, always represented yellow, which is a symbolical sign for Sothis, is used to designate the radiating sun when arranged in numerous triple rows issuing in a downward direction from the sun's disk. 'Seth' is the fiery scorching god, in contradistinction to the warming, fructifying water of the Nile, the goddess 'Satis' who inundates the soil.

She is also the goddess of the cataracts, because the overflowing of the Nile began with the appearance of Sothis in the heavens at the summer solstice. In Vettius Valens the star itself is called 'Seth' instead of Sothis; but neither the name nor the subject admits of our identifying 'Thoth' with Seth or Sothis, as Ideler has done." (Handbuch der Chronologies, bd. i. s. 126.) (Lepsius, bd. i. s. 136.)

[I will close these observations taken from the early Egyptian periods with some Hellenic, Zend, and Sanscrit etymologies: "'Seir', the sun," says Professor Franz, "is an old root, differing only in pronunciation from 'Ther', 'Theros', heat, summer, in which we meet with the same change in vowel sound as in 'teiros' and 'teros' or 'teras'. The correctness of these assigned relations of the radicals 'seir' and 'ther', 'theros', is proved not only by the employment of 'thereitatos' in Aratus, v. 149 (Ideler, Sternnamen, s. 241), but also by the later use of the forms 'serios', 'seirios', and 'seirinos', hot, burning, derived from 'seir'.

It is worthy of notice that 'seira' or 'theirina imatia' is used the same as 'theirina imatia', light summer clothing. The form 'seirios' seems, however, to have had a wider application; for it constitutes the ordinary term applied to all stars influencing the summer heat: hence, according to the version of the poet, Archilochus, the sun was 'seirios aster', while Ibycus calls the stars generally 'seiria', luminous. It cannot be doubted that it is the sun to which Archilochus refers in the words, 'pollous men autou serios katauanei oxus ellampon' ('Sirius has shown down strongly and brightly on many people.')

["According to Hesychius and Suidas, 'Seirios' does indeed signify both the sun and the Dog-star; but I fully coincide with M. Martin, the new editor of Theon of Smyrna, in believing that the passage of Hesiod (Opera et Dies, v. 417) refers to the sun, as maintained by Tzetzes and Proclus, and not to the Dog-star. From the adjective 'seirios', which has established itself as the 'epitheton perpetuum' of the Dog-star, we derive the verb 'seirion', which may be translated 'to sparkle'.

Aratus, v. 331, says of Sirius, 'oxea seiriaei', it sparkles strongly. When standing alone, the word 'Seiren', the Siren, has a totally different etymology; and your conjecture, that it has merely an accidental similarity of sound with the brightly shining star Sirius, is perfectly well-founded. The opinion of those who, according to Theon Smyranaeus (Liber de Astronomia, 1850, p. 202), derive 'Seiren' from 'seiriazein' (a moreover unaccredited form of 'seirian') is likewise entirely erroneous.

While the motion of heat and light is implied by the expression 'seirios', the radical of the word 'Seiren' represents the flowing tones of this phenomenon in nature. It appears to me probable, that 'Seiren' is connected with 'eirein' (Plato, Cratyl. 398 D. 'to gar eirein legein esti' -- 'to be at peace is to speak peacefully'), in which the original sharp aspiration passed into a hissing sound." (From letters of Prof. Franz to me, January, 1850.)

[The Greek 'Seir', the sun, easily admits, according to Bopp, "of being associated with the Sanscrit word 'svar', which does not indeed signify the sun itself, but the heavens (as something shining). The ordinary Sanscrit denomination for the sun is 'sûrya', a contraction of 'svârya', which is not used. The root 'svar' signifies in general to shine. The Zend designation for the sun is 'hvare', with the 'h' instead of the 's'. The Greek 'Ther', 'Theros' and 'Thermos' comes from the Sanscrit word 'gharma' (Nom. 'gharmas') warmth, heat."

[The acute editor of the Rigveda, Max Müller, observes that "the special Indian astronomical name of the Dog-star, 'Lubdhaka', which signifies 'a hunter', when considered in reference to the neighboring constellation Orion, seems to indicate an ancient Arian community of ideas regarding these groups of stars." He is moreover principally inclined "to derive 'Seirios' from the Veda word 'sira' (whence the adjective 'sairya') and the root 'sri', to go, to wander; so that the sun and the brightest of the stars, Sirius, were originally called wandering stars." (Compare also Pott, Etymologische Forschungen, 1883, s. 130.)]


Although much could be said about these writings of Alexander Von Humboldt, consider this simple interpretation. Eons ago, "Osiris" (now known as "Sirius B", the white dwarf companion to Sirius A) was a red-giant star, far larger and brighter than white Sirius, or "Isis", is today. "Osiris" exploded, propelling Planet X Nibiru out of that Star System, across the short distance to Earth's System, where it was captured by our Sun as "The Twelfth Planet".

Then "Osiris" collapsed in on itself and became the white dwarf Sirius B. This "red giant" would be what is remembered when it is stated by ancient writers that "Sirius was redder than Mars".

On the other hand, perhaps Planet X Nibiru, after it detethers and departs for its "aphelion" either at the Oort Cloud or in the Sirius System itself, appears to be a red color, a fiery color; and its "crossing" back towards Sirius, it appears as a larger body for some time thereafter, leading to the ancient idea that Sirius used to be red in color. Again, I can only state as I have before that until and unless we witness this complete 900-year-long event for our modern selves and this time around keep accurate scientific records, shall we ever know the complete truth about these ancient mysteries.