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No. 43: Jan-Feb 1986

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Many Greek, Roman, and Babylonian sources definitely label Sirius as being a red star. Some dispute these old accounts because today Sirius is white with a bluish tinge, and is classified as a white dwarf. W. Schlosser and W. Bergmann have now found a "new," and apparently independent reference to Sirius' red color. It is in a manuscript of Lombardic origin, which contains the otherwise lost "De Cursu Stellarum" by Gregory of Tours (who lived about 538593 AD). This new source reiterates that Sirius was once a red star, leading Schlosser and Bergmann to speculate as follows:

"Thus, Sirius B might well have changed from a red giant to the white dwarf as it appears today. However, the rapidity and smoothness of this transformation are quite unexpected, and its timescale is surprisingly short. Furthermore, no traces of catastrophic effects connected with such an event have ever been found. The only indication that something has happened is the somewhat higher metallicity of Sirius A, believed to have resulted from contamination by the giant's blown-off shell."

(Schlosser, Wolfhard, and Bergmann, Werner; "An Early-Medieval Account on the Red Color of Sirius and Its Astrophysical Implications," Nature, 318:45, 1985.)

References. See BHT5 in our catalog: Biological Anomalies: Humans I for the surmise that the ancients, especially those of the heroic age, were color-blind! In this issue's PSYCHOLOGY section, we find that the ancients may have been deficient in another, even stranger way. The above-mentioned catalog is described here.

From Science Frontiers #43, JAN-FEB 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987