Our Night Sky

Pleiades Star Cluster

The Pleiades or Seven Sisters is one of the most recognizable patterns in the sky. This time of year, it rises in the east in the evening, rises high by midnight, and sets in the west at dawn. So, it shines all night. Its 6 brightest stars actually look like a small version of the Big Dipper.
To find it, look for the constellation Orion the Hunter. Its belt points up to our right. You’ll first see the bright star Aldebaran, which is the eye of the V shape constellation Taurus the Bull. Just past that is the Pleiades which is actually part of that constellation.
Ancient Greeks thought the Pleiades group resembles the outline of a dove in the sky. Legend has it that the 7 sisters were trying to flee the amorous advances of Orion the Hunter. The gods took pity on the sisters and turned them into doves. They flew away from Orion and landed up in the sky where they are now.
When Orion obtained his place in the sky, he continued to harass them. So, the gods established Taurus the Bull to reside between them and protect the 7 sisters from Orion. Too bad Orion is my favorite constellation.
The Pleiades cluster is actually the Subaru auto logo. So, they got rewarded for their harassment. It’s actually the most famous and impressive naked eye cluster in the sky. November is called the month of the Pleiades because they’re out dusk to dawn, but actually it’s all winter through April.
It’s thought that all of the stars were born from the same cloud of gas and dust 500 million years ago. They’re 450 LY away and drift through space about 25 miles per second. They will hold together as a cluster for another 250 million years before separating. Our Sun is 5 billion years old. The Pleiades group is hundreds of times brighter than our Sun which is why they’re so bright in the sky.
With the naked eye we can definitely see 6 of them. The seventh goes through brightness changes so sometimes it’s visible and sometimes it requires binoculars. On a clear dark night, you might be able to see 20 stars with unaided vision. Binoculars will show you more, and a telescope may even show you hundreds. Its most brilliant star is Alcyone at magnitude 2.86. You might also see a faint cloud of dust giving it a misty look. So go out and observe the Pleiades.
Winterfest is coming up at the Rio Grande Club in South Fork Dec. 6 and 7. There are many new vendors with wonderful things to view and purchase. Of course, there will be snacks and things to drink. Plus, you can have a wonderful lunch at the Rio Grande Club. There will also be entertainment and other things going on. So come out and have fun!  I will also be there as a vendor.


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