The Pleiades Star Cluster

Observed and noted throughout the centuries, Pleiades is a group of very brights stars located outside of our solar system, of which over a dozen can be seen during maximum viewing without the aid of a telescope.  Under moderate viewing conditions anywhere from six to nine can be seen.  Modern technology has detected over 500 stars belonging to this star cluster. It’s technical name is Messier 45 (M45).

Pleiades has been mentioned in numerous historical writings, including notable works by Homer: the Iliad  (about 750 BC) and the Odyssey (about 720 BC). Pleiades has also been mentioned in two books of the Bible: Job (about 750 BC) and Amos (about 1,000 BC although there are differing scholarly views on the date that Amos was written).  The exact locations in the Bible are: Job 9:7-9, Job 38:31-33, and Amos 5:8.

The Pleiades has also been named “The Seven Sisters,” a reference to the Greek mythology surrounding the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. In Japanese the Pleiades are known as Subaru, for which the automobile was named.

The seven sisters are Maia, Electra, Taygete, Alcyone, Celaeno, Sterope (Asterope) and Merope.  Below is a map of the nine most visible stars within the star cluster Pleiades, named after the Greek Mythology surrounding the Seven Sisters:

Photo credit: http://www.pleiade.org/pleiades_03.html

HOW TO FIND THE PLEIADES

The Pleiades are visible above and to the right of the Constellation Orion, just beyond the Constellation Taurus. Follow the line of Orion’s belt, the three stars in the middle of the constellation, upward to a sideways “V” shape of Taurus (this “V” shape forms the head of the bull). Just beyond, following the same line, is the Pleiades star cluster.  About 6 will be visible under ordinary viewing circumstances and up to 9 on a very clear, dark night sky, either with binoculars, a low power telescope or star gazing. For more general directions (with charts, photos and maps) and also a telescope setting see e-How. For general directions with information also about the Constellation Taurus, see EarthSky.  For more scientific information on the Pleiades see Messier Catalog entry for Pleiades/M45 and also Seven Gibson’s website, which is affiliated with the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center.

 

Photo credit: http://www.pleiade.org/hubble_m45.html

 

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