Science: A Star of Another Color

Was the white dwarf of Sinus recently a red giant?

Every year, when the star rose above the horizon just before dawn, the Romans paid bizarre tribute to it by sacrificing dogs with red fur. Seneca the Younger wrote that "the redness of the dog star is deeper, that of Mars milder." Ptolemy called it "reddish," a description also used by Cicero, Horace and other classical authors. The same hue was attributed to the star in cuneiform texts of Babylonia dating as far back as 1000 B.C.

The object of all this historic attention was the dominant member of the constellation Canis Major--Sirius, the brightest[*]star in the night sky and one...

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