Moon and Taurus

StarDate: December 1, 2009

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The full Moon passes through an ancient star picture tonight: Taurus. The bull first appeared on jars and carvings in ancient Mesopotamia more than 5,000 years ago. And he's been a part of the zodiac ever since.

But just how he's depicted has changed over the centuries.

Today, Taurus is only half a bull -- the head, horns, and the front half of his body. The back half is nowhere to be found. And one of his most distinctive features is his shoulder -- the little Pleiades star cluster.

In earlier depictions, though, the Pleiades might have represented one of the bull's horns, or even his tail. And in some cultures, the Pleiades formed a separate constellation -- it wasn't part of Taurus at all.

The one constant in all the pictures of Taurus is the head -- a V-shaped pattern of stars known as the Hyades. It's a cluster of stars that's just 150 light-years away. One tip of the V represents the bull's eye. It's represented by the bright orange star Aldebaran. Although it's part of the same pattern as the Hyades, it's only half as far away, so it's not related to the cluster at all.

Tonight, Aldebaran is a little to the lower right of the Moon in early evening. The Moon's brilliance might wash out some of Aldebaran's color, but the star itself will still shine through. And the Pleiades is to the upper right of the Moon -- a little dipper-shaped pattern of stars that today stands at the shoulder of the bull.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

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