This article is all about a strange event in our past. For some reason, during the first millennium BC, the star Sirius was said to have flared red. Not only that, but its red-phase brought disease and war to the Ancient World.

Alien chat

For man years now, scientists on Earth have been watching the stars for some evidence that alien civilisations are talking to us. They have been watching for this evidence by pointing radio antennae at the heavens and listening for any radio-wave communications. There have been some tantalising moments when something interesting was heard by them, in particular the Wow! signal, but otherwise it’s been frustratingly quiet. Because of this, and the progress of technology, some scientists are thinking that maybe aliens aren’t using radio signals at all. Instead, they use lasers.

In this New Scientist article, the astronomer Geoff Marcy, famously responsible for discovering many exoplanets, explains that he’s switching from exoplanet discovery (planets orbiting other stars) to SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. He feels that he’s done what he wanted to do with the exoplanet work and wants to ‘roll the dice’ and take on a long-shot SETI subject. He believes that if alien civilisations do exist, some must be sufficiently advanced to be communicating between stars. To do this, they would logically use lasers, since lasers enable tight, focussed, information-rich communication. We on Earth have been sending out lasers and radio waves into space for a while now and Dr Marcy suspects that alien civilisations may target us as a result. As he states in the interview: ‘maybe they are studying us with their own lasers, for whatever reason, and we should be looking for that. And that’s what I plan to do.’ There is an interesting twist to his idea because such an event, our planet receiving a laser signal, may have already happened.

In the book ‘Exploring Ancient Skies’ by David H. Kelley and E. F. Milone, the authors discuss at length a strange historical oddity. Several writers in the centuries before Christ reported that Sirius was red in colour. In 150 AD, the astronomer Ptolemy described Sirius as ‘The star in the mouth, the brightest, which is called ‘the Dog’ and is reddish”. The poet Aratus also reported seeing the star as red. Seneca, too, had described Sirius as being of a deeper red colour than Mars, the red planet. In fact, Homer, Hesiod, Aratus, Virgil, Horace, Seneca. Pliny, Geminus, Ptolemy, Theon and Ceciro all refer to the star being red. These observations weren’t confined to the Mediterranean islands. A Babylonian observer in 800 BC to 700 BC described the star as ‘shining like copper’. In fact, the reports of Sirius’s change of colour extended beyond Europe and Asia. The Polynesians and the North American Pawnee both described Sirius as red. This strange anomaly has become known as the Sirius ‘Red Controversy’.

The Wolf changes colour

The current orthodox view of the Sirius ‘Red Controversy’ is that those ancient observers were mistaken in their observations, on the simple grounds that a star’s colour can’t flip between red and white in the space of a few thousand years. Stars rarely change colour. They evolve in clearly defined ways and their colour, a result of the temperature on their surface, only changes over millions of years. Astronomers have examined the stars in the Sirius star-system, the white giant Sirius A and the much smaller, white dwarf, Sirius B, in great detail. They know that it is scientifically impossible for either of those stars to have turned red, even temporarily, three thousand years ago.

The Sirius ‘Red Controversy’ therefore seems to be a paradox. Many reputable and reliable observers insisted that it turned red, and yet that is astronomically impossible. It is very unlikely though that those ancient observers were foolish enough to observe the wrong star. Sirius is a major star, one of the brightest in the sky, and highly unlikely to be mistaken for something else. Why did they men report an impossibility?

To help solve this mystery, it’s worth examining the ancient reports in more detail. For example, many of the reports say that the star was red only some of the time. In the The astrological treatise of Sima Qian, it says:

When the Wolf (the Dog Star Sirius) changes colour, there will be piracy and theft.

According to the Theban astrologer Hephaestion:

If Sirius rises bright and white and its appearance shines through, then the Nile will rise high and there will be abundance, but if it rises fiery and reddish there will be war.

According to those reports, it seems that Sirius turned red and ‘fiery’ only at certain times. In addition, when it did, several cultures on Earth felt it foreboded calamity. This view of Sirius is encapsulated in its very name. The word ‘Sirius’ is Greek and means ‘scorching’ or ‘searing’. This hellish image of Sirius was not just confined to its name. The ancient Greeks feared the star particularly at the end of summer. At that time, known as the ‘dog days’ of summer, named after that dog-star, they suspected that Sirius could ‘make plants wilt, men weaken and women become aroused’. They believed that it produced emanations that caused these effects. People suffering its effects were said to be astroboletos or ‘star-struck’, since ‘astro’ means ‘star’ and ‘bolus’ means ‘ball’. Sirius’s influence was so strong that parts of the Greek world tried to appease it with sacrifices. The inhabitants of the island of Ceos in the Aegean Sea offered sacrifices to Sirius and Zeus to bring cooling breezes, and would await the reappearance of the star in summer. If it rose clear, it would portend good fortune; if it rose fiery and red, it foretold disease. Coins retrieved from the island from the third century BC feature dogs or stars with emanating rays, highlighting the star’s importance.

The significance of Sirius as a dangerous, fiery summer star was also noted by the ancient Egyptians. They had a goddess associated with the star called Sothis, a goddess regarded by several Egyptian texts as synonymous with Isis, the wife of Osiris (also associated with Sirius). She is shown left in the Wikipedia illustration. Sothis was seen as a fearful and destructive goddess, who could bring epidemics during the summer. She was also associated with dogs. The Egyptians felt that the negative effects of Sothis could be appeased, or controlled. One of their ancient mythical figures carried out such a task. He was called Iachen.
Iachen was said to be an Egyptian magician who ‘tamed’ the power of Sirius and transformed it into a life giving power. When he died he became the centre of a cult that kept a flame burning on his altar. When Sirius rose, the priests of Iachen entered the streets with torches lit from the altar, in order to channel the power of Sirius and heal any diseases unleashed by it. Iachen was known in Minoan Crete as I-wa-ko, who became Iakchos, the hero of ‘the light-bearing star of the nocturnal mysteries’

It therefore seems, according to these reports, that Sirius was a normal, bright white star most of the time but at a certain point in the year, especially for a brief period in late Summer, the star became red and fiery. During that short period, the star seemed to be ‘active’, sending out a fiery light at Earth. Not only that, but Sirius, the dog star, was strongly associated with epidemics. We could assume, at this point, that the matter was clearly some form of religious belief but that belief was shared by entirely separate cultures. Instead, like any well-recorded phenomenon, we should investigate it scientifically, and with logic.

Blinded by the light

If we think about Sirius’s behaviour from a scientific point of view, we can come up with a simple way to explain its strange behaviour. We know that neither star in the Sirius star system could turn red, as it is impossible for a star to temporarily change its colour, but that doesn’t mean the appearance of the star from Earth couldn’t change. One straightforward way to create the appearance of a change of colour would be for someone on a planet around Sirius A, or B, to shine a light towards Earth. If this beam of light was sufficiently powerful, it could reach Earth and, just like someone having a torch shone on them in the night, entirely cover the colour of the source of the light. Here on Earth, we would see the beam of light from the Sirius star-system and only see that light, as it would be covering the star. It would also appear fiery to us as it would be distorted by our atmosphere, in the same way that the stars twinkle at night, creating a radial, flickering flame. The most likely form of this beam would have been a laser, since a laser can be focussed and amplified to a high degree, making it possible to fire the beam at targets light-years away, as Geoff Marcy pointed out.

There is therefore a straightforward explanation for the Sirius Red Controversy, that someone shone a red beam of light at Earth from the Sirius star system. The question then is, why? There is one clue as to the beam’s purpose, which has been already mentioned. Our ancient chroniclers said that when the laser-light hit Earth, epidemics and warfare broke out. Was the beam creating epidemics? This might sound impossible but, strangely enough, there is a possible connection between lasers and epidemics.

In the International Journal in Radiation Biology, there is a science paper entitled ‘DNA is a fractal antenna in electromagnetic fields, by Martin Blank and Reba Goodman. The paper’s conclusion was as follows:

The wide frequency range of interaction with EMF is the functional characteristic of a fractal antenna [in other words an antenna that responds at multiple levels], and DNA appears to possess the two structural characteristics of fractal antennas, electronic conduction and self-symmetry. These properties contribute to greater reactivity of DNA with EMF in the environment, and the DNA damage could account for increases in cancer epidemiology, as well as variations in the rate of chemical evolution in early geologic history.

It would seem, according to that research, that DNA is surprisingly good at picking up RF and ELF signals and then altering its own functioning as a result. Not surprisingly, as the paper’s authors found, hitting DNA with crude or random RF signals, of high intensity, can trigger damage within the DNA. This is like hitting a set of skilfully arrange tuning forks with very loud notes of random frequency. A lot of the time nothing will happen, but some of the time one of the forks will overload and smash to bits.

But what if someone knew exactly what RF signals to send? If someone had perfected a great understanding of how electromagnetic signals influence DNA, they might be able to trigger the DNA to produce specific proteins. This is exactly what viruses do; they get inside a cell and persuade the cell machinery, with fake RNA instructions, to produce proteins and thereby construct more viruses. It therefore seems to be theoretically possible, based on our latest research, to fire a laser beam at a human cell and cause that cell to produce a virus.

There is therefore a scientifically plausible explanation for the Sirius Red Controversy; an alien civilisation in the Sirius star system fired a laser beam at our solar system, a laser beam which contained a complex signal designed to trigger our DNA to produce certain viruses.

Of course, this explanation sounds totally freaky, and isn’t very believable to a lot of people, but as Sherlock Holmes once said:

“Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth.”

This solution leads to fascinating consequences. Firstly, it’s showing us that at least one alien civilisation does exist (or at least did exist when the beam was fired). Secondly, it’s telling us that alien civilisations around distant stars are capable of influencing human DNA. I explore that possibility in another article I’ve written, on this site, entitled, ‘Evolution and Alien Viruses’. Thirdly, if the idea is correct, then it is possible to construct a laser-beam that can reach another star-system and influence events on planets around that star-system. Perhaps, one day, we will do such a thing?