Not far from the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters along the northern Milky Way lies the coal-black fingers of the Taurus Molecular Cloud, the nearest star-forming region to Earth. Unlike the more famous Orion star factory, with the dazzling Orion Nebula and associated bright blue-white stars, the TMC is not well known to most stargazers. That’s because it doesn’t offer much to see, with no bright nebulae and just a dark and sooty network of tendrils that span more than 30o of sky. But the TMC is the nearest star-forming region to Earth, making it of considerable interest to astronomers. It’s also a rewarding target for astrophotographers who can capture its structure against the starry background in the constellations Taurus and Auriga [Read more…] about The Taurus Molecular CloudShare 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:
The Hyades Star Cluster – The “Raining Stars”
The famed V-shaped head of the constellation Taurus is dominated by a lovely collection of blue and orange stars of the Hyades star cluster. Often overshadowed by the smaller and more famous Pleiades, 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.
The Hyades have been known since antiquity. The cluster’s name comes from the Greek legend of the seven Hyads, the daughters of the titan Atlas and Aethra. Atlas was busy because he had seven more daughters by another wife, Pleione. These daughters were called the Pleiades. So by legend, the Pleiades and the Hyades are half-sisters. Unlike the Pleiades star cluster, the stars of the Hyades are not named after the sisters. And the Hyades contains some 20 stars visible to the naked eye; the Pleiades have just six [Read more…] about The Hyades Star Cluster – The “Raining Stars”Share This:
The Halloween Fireballs
The Taurid meteor shower runs from early October through late November each year and peaks in the early morning of November 12. This year, in 2015, that’s just a day after new Moon, which means the sky will be at its darkest for this event. Because they are active over Halloween, and they displayed an impressive outburst about 10 years ago at the end of October, the Taurids are sometimes called the Halloween Fireballs [Read more…] about The Halloween FireballsShare This: