At the core of the constellation Taurus is a small “V” formed by five stars. One unique feature of these stars is that four of are travelling at the same speed in the same direction. This is unusual because over time, the major constellations change shape because the stars that form them travel at different speed and in different directions. However, most of the central “V” in the Taurus constellation will remain intact over time. Tens of thousands of years from now other constellations will have been drastically altered yet these four stars of Taurus will still form the exact same pattern in the sky as they do now.
Aldebaran, or alpha Tauri, formsTaurus’ birght and piercing eye. This old star is an orange giant that’s 40 times the size of our Sun. It will eventually dim into a white dwarf. Following the lower horn out to its tip is zeta Tauri, a shell star. Shell stars rotate rapidly, causing a loss of matter to an ever-expanding shell. Taurus has an abundant selection of binary stars.
Deep Sky Objects in Taurus
Two well known objects are found within Taurus and are amongst the most popular astrophotography targets. They are the “Crab Nebula” and “The Pleiades”.
M1: The Crab Nebula
The Crab Nebula can be located northwest of zeta Tauri. Initially, the Crab Nebula was mistaken as a star cluster. It takes a rather large telescope to see any of the filamentary features of the nebula. The Crab Nebula is what is left of a supernova which was visible to us in 1054. The explosion occurred long before then, but it was only in 1054 that the light of the explosion reached us. It was observed by Chinese and Japanese astronomers. This particular supernova couldn’t really be missed thanks to visual magnitude of about -5, bright enough to be seen even in the daytime, and for nearly a month.
M45: The Pleiades
This popular open cluster is home to nearly three thousand stars. The brightest seven stars within the cluster are called “The Seven Sisters”. These are also very popular astrophotography targets.
Taurus Greek Mythology
There are many stories around the Bull, one of which describes Zeus falling in love with Europa, the daughter of a Phoenician king. Zeus longs for Europa and decides to go to her. To avoid detection from his wife Hera, he transforms himself into a bull and poses a member of the bull herd grazing near Europa. She weaves wreathes of flowers for the beast, and wraps them around his horns. After spending some time with the great bull, she decides to ride it. To her surprise, the bull transforms into an eagle and carries her up to Mount Olympus. There, Zeus changes back to his normal self where he and Europa bear three sons.
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Orion SkyView Pro 8″ Equatorial Reflector Telescope
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