In the months from late November through early March, in both the northern and southern hemispheres, the famous Pleiades star cluster grabs the attention of experienced and untutored stargazers alike. The little dipper-shaped cluster, which is about the width of your little finger held at arm’s length, presents a spectacular sight in binoculars or small telescope where it transforms from a tiny cluster of half a dozen members to an arresting array of couple of hundred of blue-white stars. The cluster itself is a snap to observe, but at its heart lies a far more challenging object, an ethereal reflection nebula created by starlight reflected by fine grains of stardust in an interstellar cloud that the cluster is passing through. [Read more…] about The Merope NebulaShare This:
The Many Names of the Pleiades
The Pleiades star cluster in the constellation Taurus is one of a handful of objects in the heavens that never fail to amaze and inspire even the most experienced observers. As beautiful in an inexpensive pair of binoculars as in images from big professional telescopes, this star cluster presents visual observers an especially lovely sight with stars of an unearthly blue ensconced amid a faint frost of nebulosity. If there were more objects like it in the night sky, there would be a lot more amateur astronomers in the world [Read more…] about The Many Names of the PleiadesShare This:
The Hyades Star Cluster
It’s the second-closest star cluster to Earth, and it appears so large that many new stargazers don’t even know it’s a true star cluster. But the Hyades, which make up the V-shaped head of the constellation Taurus, the Bull, is a resplendent collection of young, mostly blue-white stars that are lovely to the unaided eye and a wonder to behold in a pair of binoculars.
Often overshadowed by the smaller and more famous and apparently smaller Pleiades to the west, the Hyades are visible high in the northern sky this time of year. They’re visible from the southern hemisphere, too, perhaps 20° above the northern horizon just after sunset in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. An easy way to spot the Hyades? Follow a line from Orion’s Belt to the northwest until you see the little V with the bright orange star Aldebaran at one apex and keep going to get to the Pleiades. Follow Orion’s Belt in the other direction and you’ll find the bright blue-white star Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. The image below shows you what to look for [Read more…] about The Hyades Star ClusterShare This:
The ‘Seven (Dusty) Sisters’
Like many observers both casual and serious, I do not tire of gazing upon the little star cluster known as the Pleiades. I’ve seen the cluster a thousand times, but I’ll still stop and take a long look at it without optics while out for a walk on a winter’s night. Some night I’ll grab a pair of binoculars and make a closer inspection of the cluster, which fits perfectly in the field of view of such an instrument. And if it’s not too cold, I’ll pull out a telescope and a wide-field eyepiece and spend 20 minutes taking in the astonishing view of this group of blue-white stars that formed while dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. Which, in celestial terms, was not all that long ago.
Why keep looking at the Pleiades after so many years? The cluster doesn’t appear to change, of course, in the restricted timescale of a human life. But the Pleiades is a profoundly beautiful sight, as pleasing as a field of alpine wildflowers, and I never fail to see new patterns of stars both bright and dim that I hadn’t noticed before [Read more…] about The ‘Seven (Dusty) Sisters’Share This:
Mercury, the Pleiades, and the Hyades
It’s a good time for seeing planets. Venus moved past the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters in early April. Now it’s Mercury’s turn. In this image, you see the speedy little planet near the two famous star clusters on May 1, 2015. The Hyades star cluster is tangled in the branches at left. For the next week, Mercury makes its best appearance this year in the western sky after sunset. Venus is much higher above the horizon after sunset, and Jupiter higher still. Saturn rises in the east before midnight, its rings tilted dramatically, as it moves to its closest approach to Earth later in May.Share This: