The Dog Days of summer traditionally start today. The term goes back to Roman times, and doesn’t concern the family pet, but the celestial “dog” in the skies. The Dog Days come when the Sun is closest to the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, nick-named the “Dog Star”. We see this star in the winter as the nose of the Great Dog, companion to Orion.

July is the time to say good-bye to the classic constellation Leo, the Lion. The bright star on Leo’s shoulder, Regulus, is close to due west at 9:30 PM EDT as it emerges from the twilight, settling lower as the twilight fades by 10 o’clock. Leo continues to settle lower each evening, and by late in the month, drops below the horizon.

Today finds the Earth at aphelion – its greatest distance from the Sun – at 94,510,539 miles. Yes, July is the hottest month of the year on average, but it is our tilted axis, angled toward the Sun in summer, and not our distance, that gives us longer days and more direct sunlight, increasing the temperatures.