Advent of Suhail heralds the onset of cold season


Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — Sunday, Aug. 20, marks the beginning of Suhail season. It heralds a gradual declining of temperature in Saudi Arabia. It’s good news not only for Saudis and expats but also for the hundreds of thousands of foreign pilgrims who have come for Haj.

“With the advent of Suhail, temperature falls gradually in the night,” said Dr. Khaled Al-Zaaq, a member of the Arab Union of Astronomy and Space Science.

“This will continue for a month a half and after that the temperature will begin to decrease in the day time too,” he said while talking to Al-Hayat Arabic daily. “After three months from today the Kingdom will have cold weather,” he added.

Al-Zaaq also pointed out that during this summer, the Kingdom’s coastal areas will have a high degree of humidity with clouds moving through its central, eastern and northern regions. Temperature will shoot up during this cloud movement.

“The rise in temperature in the coming days will be the last one during this year’s summer season,” he said, adding that hot weather would continue for two more weeks. Suhail season will last for 53 days, which are divided on the basis of four stars.

Suhail, also known as Canopus, is the second brightest star in the sky after Sirius. Its appearance has great significance for Middle Eastern people.

"Suhail's appearance means the beginning of the end of summer: the days begin to get shorter and temperatures begin to decrease," said an expert.

"Back in those days, many people used to say water in their wells was hot the day before Suhail appeared and cool the next day," he added.

Between 70 and 80 days after Suhail appears, camel grazing, studding and palm pollination can commence. Suhail is very often mentioned in Arab poetry, stories, and Bedouin sayings.

“Many people considered it to have healing powers. Since the weather improves when the star is in the sky, people feel healthier and so they attributed it to the star," said another expert while speaking about Suhail.

Despite the star's popularity and significance in the east, it remains obscure in Western culture. This is presumably because it was not visible to the Romans or the Ancient Greeks.

The northern limit of visibility for the star is latitude 37°18' north, which is just south of cities like Athens and San Francisco.

Suhail is still used in navigation today. Its brightness and location make it popular for space navigation. Many spacecrafts, including those used by NASA, carry a special camera known as a Canopus Star Tracker.