by Patrick Marsolek (8/2013)
The star Sirius has fascinated humans for many millennia. Many different cultures around the world have beliefs and myths that are tied up with the star. It is the brightest star in the sky from earth and it is the 5th closest star we’ve identified to our sun. You can see it from the Northern hemisphere in the winter months by following a line down from the belt of Orion, where it appears as a white/blue star. In the right conditions, at high elevation and with the sun low in the sky, it can even be seen during the day.
Beyond the fact that it is the brightest star seen from earth, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Indians and Chinese all had special understanding about the importance of Sirius. Sirius has shown up in our popular culture in movies like the Truman Show and the Harry potter series with the character Sirius Black, who seems to represent some of the qualities of Sirius’ binary partner. Recently, scientists and astronomers have taken a greater interest in the star due to it’s peculiar relationship to Earth and our Sun.
At the crux of the current debate is the phenomena of precession of the equinoxes. This refers to an approximately 26,000 year cycle whereby the rotational axis of the earth appears to wobble, inscribing a great circle in the starry sky. Currently Polaris is almost in line with the earth’s Northern axis. Thirteen thousand years from now the axis will be pointing closer to Vega. This great cycle is also called Lunisolar precession, referring to the theory that this wobble is caused by the interaction of gravitational forces between the earth and the other heavenly bodies in our solar system.
The scholar Walter Cruttendon has offered a radical theory that the reason for this apparent wobble is in fact because our sun is part of a binary star system. In his book, Lost Star of Myth and Time he argues why it is that our sun has a companion star, and why the best candidate is Sirius. Though this may seem a radical proposition, the idea of our sun being in a binary system is not new. There have been numerous scientific publications examining the evidence for a dark star, literally, a brown dwarf which would be difficult to see, and with which our Sun might be gravitationally bound. This hypothetical star, named Nemesis, has been proposed due to perturbations of other orbiting objects in our solar system. The star should be fairly easy to detect, even if it is a dwarf star. However, no nearby companion has been found so far.
Proposing that Sirius may be the companion to our sun flies in the face of what we commonly think of as binary stars because it is over eight light years distant and it’s not the closest star to our own. In general, a binary star refers to a pair of stars that revolve around a common center of mass. We can observe other binary star systems due to the wobbly movements these stars make or through regular fluctuations in their brightness. Scientists have recently proposed that there may be many more binary or even triple star systems than we previously believed, though typically they are closer together.
Cruttendon’s theory builds on the work of Schwaller de Lubicz, Karl-Heinz Homman and Uwe Homman and has received support from astronomers such as Dr. William Brown of Colorado State University. Yet this “fringe” theory does not go uncontested in the scientific world, since it turns long-standing “truths” on their heads. There continue to be heated debates as to the validity and even possibility of the Earth being in part of a binary system, and if it is, if Sirius could even be a candidate.
Here are a few of the key points of Cruttendon’s binary theory, starting with the issue of angular momentum. It is generally accepted that every solar system has a certain amount of angular momentum when it is formed. The sun contains about 1000 times more mass than all the planets combined yet only contains about .3 percent of the total angular momentum in our solar system, much less than would be expected if the sun were in a single system. Yet, if it is part of a binary star system, then this fractional amount of angular momentum would make more sense.
Secondly, our solar system has a sheer edge, meaning that beyond around 50 Astronomical Units (AU) from the sun, out beyond Pluto, there appear to be no trackable bodies of any significant size. This is a feature one would expect in a binary star system where the gravitational effects of another large object would essentially clean up these outer areas. Over time all the solid bodies in those outer regions would be drawn into the gravity of one of the two suns. The sheer edge could also be caused by a yet undiscovered large planet in our solar system.
Another clue is the non-randomness of the paths of comets. There appears to be a bias in the orbital distribution of comets that enter our solar system. This bias seems to suggest that there is a large mass in relationship with our solar system that disturbs the Oort Cloud, a hypothetical icy cloud of large solid objects at the extreme edge of our solar system around 50,000 AU’s away. Even the existence of the Oort Cloud seems to suggest some kind of relationship between our solar system and nearby stars.
Cruttendon also argues that if the lunisolar theory was correctly explaining precession then the motion of the planets of our solar system should also precess along with the rest of the stars and galaxies in the background, yet they don’t. If this is truly the case, then the movement we observe in the stars can’t be caused by the top-like motion that Lunisolar theory dictates because the same motion must be occurring in our whole solar system. This phenomena is better explained in the Binary model, where the whole solar system would be rotating about a common center of gravity with another star.
Another difficulty is the Acceleration of the Rate of Precession. The current rate of precession is approximately 1 degree every 72 years, yet this rate is changing. The current Lunisolar model is one of problems, revisions and the addition of new inputs. Newton’s original equations did not work all that well. Many other astronomers have added and changed dynamical inputs in the formulas attempting to create a close fit to what is actually observed. The problem is that the current models are designed to closely approximate a fixed precession observable on a fixed date. Yet the observed rate of precession has been increasing at an increasing rate over the last 100 plus years, something the current models have been unable to predict. As predictability is a litmus test for the validity of a theory, the lunisolar theory is now undergoing increased scrutiny. The binary model seems to better explain a variable rate of precession since the wobble would speed up or slow down depending on the proximity of the two stars as they rotate around each other.
Cruttendon suggests Sirius may be the best fit for our binary companion, though a more suitable star, as far as mainstream science is concerned, would be one closer to our Solar System. Yet Sirius may be a better fit than other, nearer stars in part because it has a declination from the equator of only -17º. Celestial bodies in our Solar System show harmonic resonance with the Sirius system. Pluto and the newly discovered distant object Sendna are at an incline to the plane of the solar system of roughly 17º, the same as Sirius. Resonance is a criterion stipulated for any system of orbiting bodies, which is why planets and moons are often tidally locked with their parent body. Resonance is another reason why the hypothesis of the earth having a wobble is unappealing. A wobble suggests dynamic instability and not harmonic resonance. Shifting to a theory that shows a system in balance seems more inline with the universe we perceive.
We add to this that Sirius does not move retrograde across the sky like other stars. Professor Jed Buchwald of Caltech wrote, "Sirius remains about the same distance from the equinoxes – and so from the solstices – throughout these many centuries, despite precession." Karl-Heinz Homman and Uwe Homman of Canada have taken a special interest in Sirius and have made specific transit measurements of Sirius for over 20 years. They found no “precession” adjustments are required to track the star Sirius. They say, “Even more surprising is the observation that the mean time interval of the sidereal year, as measured with respect to Sirius is nearly identical to the time interval of the tropical year.” The difference between these two years is significant because there should be a greater difference in these measurements if Lunisolar precession were happening.
Though there are researchers and astronomers willing to consider this radical idea, it does turn a lot of theories about our universe on their heads and many people are resistant. Also, although the interest of our present day scientists may be new, many cultures have had a long interest in our relationship with Sirius. Previous civilizations did understand celestial mechanics at an advanced level, and the mathematical precision of their astronomical observations is a testament to this. One of the so called air shafts in the Queen’s chamber of the Great Pyramid at Giza is aligned to Sirius. It is thought that the reason why the Egyptians and many other civilizations of that era used Sirius as their marker for the passage of time is because they picked the most stable object as their reference point.
The remarkable stability of Sirius throughout the solar year may be one reason that the Egyptians used it as a basis for their calendar whereas no other star would have sufficed. It was revered as Sothis, and was associated with Isis, the mother goddess. The heliacal rising of Sirius, which refers to it’s first annual appearance from behind the sun, is when the star can be observed just before sun rise. This day served as the calibration point for their calendar system. Sirius’ heliacal rising always preceded the flooding of the Nile and the summer Solstice. Using the star Sirius as the beginning of their year, they did not have to worry about leap years and their calendar maintained better accuracy than the Gregorian calendar.
The 1894 Indian philosopher Sri Yukteswar proposed in his book, The Holy Science, that our Sun did have a binary relationship with Sirius. He suggested that the relationship of these two stars was the cause of the great ages, or Yugas, of Hindu belief which cycle in a period of roughly 24,000 years, similar to that of precession. According to this belief, when the suns are closer in relationship we experience Golden Ages and because of this cycle the rise and fall of civilizations has occurred before. It happens that the stars are now moving closer together towards another Golden age.
The Dogon people in Mali, West Africa are reported to have had intimate astronomical knowledge of Sirius since long before there were telescopes. It is reported that they knew for several thousand years that Sirius also has a closer, heavier binary star associated with it, with a 50 year orbital period. They even suggest Sirius may have a third sun in conjunction with it. They also claim that an intelligent, amphibian species called the Nommo made contact with earth 5000 years ago. Some skeptics propose this astronomical knowledge was due to contamination by the first anthropologists encountering the Dogon. Other scholars believe that the Dogon descended from the Egyptians and may have culturally preserved knowledge of the importance of Sirius as the axis of the universe.
Modern secret societies such as the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians and the Golden Dawn all hold Sirius in the utmost importance. The Theosophist, H.P. Blavatsky believed that the star Sirius exerts a strong influence over all of the stars an the earth and was in some way linked with every great religion of antiquity. These secret societies refer to the metaphysical interconnections we have with the stars. If our sun is in a physical binary relationship with Sirius or other stars, that metaphysical concept may have more physical implications which we are only beginning to understand.
Interestingly, there is a consistency in the symbolism and meaning attached to Sirius across cultures. In Chinese and Japanese astronomy, Sirius is known as the “star of the celestial wolf.” Many aboriginal tribes in the Americas also have dog-like references for the star, such as; “dog that follows mountain sheep”, “Dog-face”, “Wolf star”, “Coyote Star”, and “Moon Dog.” In India it is referred to as Svana, the Dog Prince Yudhistira. Today it is commonly called the “Dog Star”, referring to it’s prominence in the constellation Canis Major or Greater Dog. It is even thought the term the “Dog Days” of summer comes from the ancient Greeks and refers to the Heliacal rising of Sirius. The Greeks and Romans believed the “Little Dog” or “Orion’s Dog” would bring the intense heat of summer and fevers that would inflict dogs and humans.
Lastly, there is the mystery of star’s color. Today the star appears bluish white. Yet Babylonian cuneiform texts, and the writings of classical Greco-Roman authors, including Cicero, Horace, Seneca and Ptolemy, refer consistently to Sirius as a red or reddish star. Seneca stated around 25 AD that the redness of Sirius was ‘deeper than that of Mars’. Two thousand years is generally thought to be too short for a star to shift it’s color, so there is debate as to why Sirius appears to have changed it’s color. If Cruttendon’s theory is true, then perhaps because the star is now moving towards us it appears more blue. The Hopi Natives refer to Sirius as the Blue Star Kachina. People think the Red Star Kachina is a separate star but perhaps it is the same star at a different part of its cycle.
Conventional astronomical calculations suggest the chance of Sirius being a companion star to our sun is remote. Nonetheless, our sun and Sirius are moving toward each other now. Sirius has a unique relationship in our sky and appears immune to the effects of precession. Many ancient cultures had advanced knowledge of the stars and the earth’s relationships to them. They recognized the special relationship we have with Sirius. One possibility is that there is a more complex relationship between our sun, Sirius and it’s companion star or stars. When we think about binary stars, which it turns out are more prevalent than we thought, it may be that the sun and Sirius are both binary systems, yet they may also revolve around each other. As the ancient people’s thought, these heavenly bodies my have a direct influence on our lives. I imagine we will continue learning more about these special relationships at the same time we increase our appreciation of the highly evolved ancient knowledge of previous civilizations.
Patrick Marsolek is a writer, dancer, facilitator, clinical hypnotherapist and the director of Inner Workings Resources. He leads groups and teaches classes in extended human capacities, consciousness exploration, personal development, and compassionate communication. He offers his services to businesses, individuals and families and in self-empowerment seminars. He is the author of Transform Yourself: A Self-hypnosis manual and A Joyful Intuition. See www.PatrickMarsolek.com for more information.