Sirius appears bright because of both its intrinsic luminosity and its proximity to Earth. At a distance of 2.6 parsecs (8.6 ly), as determined by the Hipparcos astrometry satellite, the Sirius system is one of Earth’s near neighbors; for Northern-hemisphere observers between 30 degrees and 73 degrees of latitude (including almost all of Europe and North America), it is the closest star (after the Sun) that can be seen with a naked eye. Sirius is gradually moving closer to the Solar System, so it will slightly increase in brightness over the next 60,000 years. After that time its distance will begin to recede, but it will continue to be the brightest star in the Earth’s sky for the next 210,000 years.
Sirius A is about twice as massive as the Sun and has an absolute visual magnitude of 1.42. It is 25 times more luminous than the Sun but has a significantly lower luminosity than other bright stars such as Canopus or Rigel. The system is between 200 and 300 million years old. It was originally composed of two bright bluish stars. The more massive of these, Sirius B, consumed its resources and became a red giant before shedding its outer layers and collapsing into its current state as a white dwarf around 120 million years ago.
Sirius is also known colloquially as the “Dog Star”, reflecting its prominence in its constellation, Canis Major (Greater Dog). The heliacal rising of Sirius marked the flooding of the Nile in Ancient Egypt and the “dog days” of summer for the ancient Greeks, while to the Polynesians it marked winter and was an important star for navigation around the Pacific Ocean.