Posts Tagged ‘Nile’

02/28/2022 – Ephemeris – Ancient Egypt’s most important star

February 28, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, February 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 7 minutes, setting at 6:29, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:20. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 7:17 tomorrow morning.

The Ancient Egyptian agricultural year began with the flooding of the Nile, which was announced by the heliacal rising of the brightest nighttime star, Sirius. A heliacal rising is the first appearance of a star in the morning twilight after disappearing in evening twilight some months before. The Greeks called the star Sothis, while the ancient Egyptians called the star Sopdet. The heliacal rising would occur on July 20th had our calendar been in use back then. The relationship between the summer solstice and the heliacal rising of Sothis, 29 days later, stayed the same for nearly three millennia, from at least 2900 BCE to 12 CE, despite precession* of the Earth’s axis moving the Sun from the middle of the constellation Leo at the summer solstice to the western edge of Cancer one and a half constellations west. Sopdet was personified by a goddess, who was the consort to Sah, who is what they called Orion.


The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

* Precession of the equinoxes. The slow, 26,000 year wobble of the Earth’s axis which causes the Earth, most of the time, to not have a pole star. We’re lucky to live at a time to have a bright star within a degree of the north celestial pole. That star is, of course, Polaris. Precession also changes the point in the sky, along the ecliptic and zodiac, where the Sun appears on the first day of spring, or any season. These points move westward along the ecliptic (the plane of the earth’s orbit of the Sun) one degree every 72 years.


The Egyptian used the heliacal rising of Sirius as a signal that the flooding of the Nile was imminent, starting their agricultural year. The Greeks called the star Sothis, while the Egyptians themselves called it Sopdet, a goddess, and consort of the god Sah, our Orion.
Part of my presentation, December 2021 of Ancient Astronomy of the Egyptians and Babylonians.

01/17/2017 – Ephemeris – Denial is not a river in the sky

January 17, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 17th.  The Sun will rise at 8:14.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 16 minutes, setting at 5:31.  The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 11:32 this evening.

One of the more obscure constellations around is Eridanus, which depicts a river. At 9 p.m. the river starts near the lower right corner of Orion, near the bright star Rigel and flows to the right then zigzags down to the left, then down to the right near the southern horizon, then it heads south below the horizon. One has to travel to the far south to see the southern terminus of the river, the bright star Achernar.  Writers over the ages have seen here the Nile and the world circling river Ocean of the flat Earth days.  Achernar was recently discovered to be the flattest star known, due to its rapid spin.  The dimensions of Achernar have been determined to be twice as wide across its equator than from pole to pole.  It’s 139 light years away.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.



An animation of the constellation Eridanus which is a river that flows from Rigel in Orion to the star Achernar below our southern horizon at latitude 45 degrees north. Create using Stellarium and GIMP.


A model of Achernar by the European Southern Observatory (ESO).