Moon and Aldebaran

Moon and Aldebaran

A bright star follows the gibbous Moon across the sky late tonight. That seems appropriate, since the star’s name means “the Follower.”

Aldebaran is the bright orange eye of Taurus, the bull. It’ll stand to the lower left of the Moon as they climb into good view, after midnight, and even closer to the Moon at first light.

The name “Aldebaran” is from an ancient Arabic phrase that meant “the Follower.” The star was called that because it follows the Pleiades — a star cluster that looks like a tiny dipper. It’s to the right of Aldebaran and the Moon at dawn, leading them across the sky.

Aldebaran isn’t the only name for this bright, beautiful star. In fact, it has quite a few.

As the leading light of Taurus, for example, it’s assigned the first letter of the Greek alphabet, so it’s known as Alpha Tauri.

Many of its designations come from catalogs. Astronomers have compiled many different star catalogs, based on different traits. The Henry Draper catalog, for example, lists stars based on the breakdown of their light. The Gliese catalog lists the stars that are close by. And the Hipparcos catalog lists the more than 100,000 stars that had their distances measured by a space telescope.

In these catalogs, Aldebaran is listed as HD 29139, GJ 9159, and HIP 21421. They’re not the most poetic or inspiring names, but they help astronomers fit Aldebaran into the scheme of things — finding its place among the stars.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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