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May 02, 2024 5 min read

When I was but a pup myself, my friends and I would often go to a bar named Dog Star which had the magic combination of a ‘late license’ on weekends, a dance floor and delicious drinks. We whiled away countless hours there and at the time, it never once occurred to me to wonder about the name. Today for whatever* reason that bar popped into my head and I was curious how it got its moniker. Thanks to Google - which wasn't yet mainstream in my Dog Star era - I now have the answer: it is a popular name for Sirius, which is both the brightest star in the sky and one of the stars in the constellation of Canis Major, or Big Dog*. As is often the case, the answer to one question led to a couple more and here we are. 

(*the reason is this: like stars, we humans get older, and our interest in history is directly proportional to our advancing years. And now you know!)

How did we settle on Big Dog

Scandalously, the constellation known as Canis Major didn’t start out as a canine. In ancient Mesopotamia, it was known as ‘ban kaksisa’, or bow and arrow, and so it remained for 10,000 years until the Ancient Greeks went for a major rebrand. They decided to name this most critical of constellations for the dog Lelaps, who was a gift from the god of sky and thunder, Zeus, to the princess Europa, for whom the continent of Europe is named. Still with me? Almost there! Now why did they do this? Well it turns out Lelaps was a Big Dog indeed, because he never failed to catch what he was hunting

Understood in the context of Ancient Greece, where the connection between stars and success was explicit, this makes total sense. Just as there was a time before Google search, so there was a time before Google Maps, when stars were the main form of navigation for sailors and land travelers alike. Dependable and unrelenting, stars gave direction and like a dog who always catches her quarry, the stars never failed, and so the brightest star of all was named Sirius, or Dog Star, after the most faithful and reliable companion of all. And now you know!

For your most reliable companion, big or small, may we recommend this twinkle-tastic star collar from our friends at Yellow Dog Design? Perfect for dogs who love to get dirty and play rough, this collar is resistant to odor, dirt, salt water, and anything else your pup can throw at it - truly a stellar performer! 💫

Are there other canine constellations? How about feline constellations? 

Yes there are! Canis Minor, or Small Dog, and Canes Venatici, Hunting Dogs. In fact, among the 88 named constellations, animal names are by far the most prevalent category, with no fewer than 42 honoring our friends from the animal kingdom. That number rises to 44 if you add in the 2 chimeras, or half-animal-half-person, and we do add them in because they are awesome. 

However - and I need to keep my voice down for this bit, you'll see why - for reasons upon which we may only speculate, there is only one cat constellation, Lynx. To add insult to injury, this constellation was not observed until the 17th century, meaning for about 12,000 years, cats went unrepped in the cosmos. Hmmmm. 

Regulars may recall that we ran an exposé on the catosphere last October, revealing that not only is the catosphere the largest of the spheres, it is one of the most powerful - so this cat-shaped hole in human constellationary consciousness seems a little fishy to us. Historians report that the astronomer who first recorded Lynx named it so because it was so hard to make out that only someone with eyesight as good as a lynx would see it. We have a rather different theory. We suspect that in fact the only reason Lynx appeared in the sky in 1687 was that the catosphere’s vision distortion equipment (VDE) was partially down that year - requests for further information on both the equipment and its apparent failure were denied - allowing hitherto invisible heavenly bodies to appear, albeit faintly. 

A source, speaking to King Duke’s anonymously, told us that once the VDE was restored, a great debate ensued over Lynx; would its disappearance lead to further investigation and a catastrophic breach of secrecy? Or would stargazers simply assume they had drunk a bit too much ‘brisk champagne’, newly popular after an English scientist found that adding sugar to wine produced bubbles, and that those bubbles added to the intoxicating effects of the wine. In the end, it was decided that Lynx must stay illuminated to avoid further inquiry, and so it remains today. And now you know!

To help your most mysterious and magisterial kitty soar amongst the stars, may we suggest this Meowijuana Higher Than A Kite refillable catnip kit? It’s euphoria unbound, and these queens of the universe deserve nothing less!

Okay so that’s The Past, what about now? 

Well it turns out that a thoroughly modern astronomical feature is, like Canis, Canis, Canes & Lynx, articulated by its resemblance to an animal, one that is a bit of a fan favorite here at KDHQ! You know what a hot dog is, and what a hot dog is, but do you know what a Hot DOG is? Hot DOG stands for Hot Dust-Obscured Galaxy? Neither did we until now! 

So what’s cool about them? NOTHING, they are mercilessly, destructively hot. Like, 1,000 times hotter than our Milky Way which is really hot. They also can’t be seen with ordinary telescopes, because the dust that surrounds them obscures any light that our eyes might detect from them. Okay, fine, but also: have the cats been interfering again? Either way, they dump out enormous amounts of light in infrared wavelengths which mean that they could be used to change the channel on your TV were they not so far away. 

Although our awareness of them is recent, like literally everything else, Hot DOGs mostly formed about ten billion years ago when the universe was still relatively young, and for that reason, scientific types hope that they will help us learn what the universe was like back then. Honestly, I think the cats probably hold all the secrets of the known universe and likely all the secrets of the unknown universe, though of course that’s harder to estimate. And now you know!

So what has this brief tour of the cosmos, which began with the name of a bar in early noughties London, and has taken us to Ancient Greece via Mesopotamia, taught us? First of all, the symbiotic relationship between humans and animals is as old as time itself, and just as constant. Secondly, the degree to which humans’ success is utterly dependent on following the lead of dogs can never be overstated. Thirdly, the prominence placed by humans upon canines is almost certainly down, at least in part, to cats’ ability to control and manipulate what is known, visible, and can be perceived. 

TL;DR: the cats are in charge. Yet again. 

Next time you look up and see the Dog Star in all her twinkly glory, think of all the dogs of past, present, and future, and all the cats of time too. We would quite literally be lost without them.

Until next month, pack, ad astra!

💫🌌🔭⭐️☄️🪐🐾🐈‍⬛



*most scholars prefer Greater Dog, but as this and other pieces demonstrate, I am a little more freeform than most scholars. Big Dog it is!


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