Monday, January 03, 2005

Star light, star bright

Jane draws our attention to the star Canopus, second brightest in Earth's sky, and a prominent winter presence for those of us who observe from as far south as the Tropic of Cancer.

Canopus appears less bright than Sirius, but it is actually a much larger and more luminous star, 316 light-years distant compared to Sirius's 8.5 light-years, a yellow-white supergiant approaching the end of its life. Unlike most star names, Canopus is Egyptian, and seems to refer to the pilot of a ship, perhaps that of Jason's craft, the Argo, in which he went in search of the Golden Fleece. Canopus was the name of an ancient port near the Egyptian city of Alexandria, and the principle thoroughfare of ancient Alexandria was named the Canopic Way. The star, the port and the avenue appear in my novel Valentine, recently published in Ireland and the UK.