The Dog Days are upon us. Sirius, the "Dog Star" must be working overtime although I can't see Sirius or the constellation Canis Major from my usual vantage point. The Romans blamed Sirius for the hottest days of summer. Then there is that other dog reference regarding the heat of the day..."mad dogs and Englishmen...." I don't blame the dogs, they are miserable, too. It has been so hot and humid here in the middle of the continent that things seem to be grinding to a halt. Human activity is curtailed as much as possible during the day. After a while your brain fries or just starts to dry out. I stopped for gas the other day and it took me three tries to get the car turned so the gas pump was on the same side as the gas cap. The old fried brain couldn't figure it out. I'm guessing that the economic statistics for this summer will reflect a lack of commercial activity just due to the heat. It's not likely to get better any time soon. They forecast four of the next five days will be over 100 degrees here. We've already had about twenty 100+ degree days in the last month and almost no rain. We had rain on July 8th and on June 11th...that's it. We have the humidity as well as the heat but no rain.
I stay holed up inside as much as possible during the day but after dark it gets almost tolerable so I venture outside with a cold beverage. I'm a sky watcher. Sirius and Canis Major are on the other side of the house and concealed behind some trees so I can't shake my fist in their direction. That's fine because I have plenty to watch. The night sky is busy if you happen to live in a place with little or no light pollution. Planes flying coast to coast pass overhead. There is an old Trivial Pursuit question asking where Richard Nixon was when Gerald Ford was sworn in as President. He was almost directly over my head fleeing to San Clemente. I try to guess where the planes are going with a rough map stored in my head. Perhaps Dallas to Chicago? Denver to Cincinnati? There are some that come from the west and then turn 90-degrees to the right and head south directly over my head. I live about an hour east of an Air Force base so some of those planes are military flights. On weekends they fly east and then make a big U-turn and head back to their base. I guess those are training flights. We used to see Stealth Bombers but they are pretty rare these days. You could hear them before you saw them so I'm not sure how stealthy they are.
Meteor showers are always interesting. I was born during the Perseid meteor shower, one of the best of the year, so I have a long-standing birthday ritual of going out and watching for meteors on my birthday. I've seen a bunch. They come in colors occasionally. Sometimes come in in pairs, side-by-side. Sometimes they break up and pieces go off in different angles. Sometimes they leave a glowing trail. Experts say they are only the size of a grain of sand. I find that very hard to believe.
Last night I caught sight of an Iridium Flare, which is caused by sunlight reflected off of a satellite. There are a bunch of Iridium communication satellites with large reflective panels that catch the sunlight and cast a beam of light out of the pitch black sky back down to Earth. The flare lasts only a second or two but it is extremely bright -- maybe -8 in magnitude. Sirius, that "Dog Star", is the brightest star in the sky with a magnitude of -1.4 so an Iridium Flare can be several times brighter than Sirius. The full moon is magnitude -6 and the Sun is -13 so a bright flare can fall in between the moon and the Sun in brightness. Iridium Flares look like someone turned on a bright flashlight and then turned it off again. Actually there is so much stuff orbiting the Earth now that it can be confusing and dangerous. A Russian satellite collided with an Iridium satellite at 22,000 mph and left a bunch of orbiting debris that is something of a hazard to astronauts. Some of these things are predictable...you can go to web sites and check out when the International Space Station will fly over your house or track other highly visible objects.
For right now I'm hoping to see some thunderstorm lightening on the horizon heading this way. It could not arrive too soon.
Causes Ken Hartke Supports
Save the Children, public broadcasting