Moon and the Bull

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Moon and the Bull

The gibbous Moon perches near the neck of Taurus, the bull, this evening. It’s roughly the same distance from the bull’s face and its shoulder. Both features are represented by star clusters: the Pleiades, to the upper right of the Moon, and the Hyades, to the lower right. The clusters are especially close and bright, so both are easy to see.

The Pleiades represents the shoulder. Its brightest stars form a small but easy-to-see dipper. The cluster is more than 400 light-years away.

The name comes from ancient Greek — from a word that means “to sail.” Sailing season in the Mediterranean began about the time the cluster first appeared in the dawn sky. In Greek mythology, the stars were the Seven Sisters — the daughters of Pleione, an ocean goddess.

The Hyades outlines the face. It looks like a letter V. It’s the closest star cluster of all, at a distance of about 150 light-years. The brightest star in the pattern is Aldebaran, at the top left point — the bull’s orange eye. It’s not a member of the cluster, though — it’s only about half as far.

The name Aldebaran comes from ancient Arabic. It means “the follower” — the star follows the Pleiades across the sky. A version of the name was sometimes applied to the Hyades as a group. In that case, Aldebaran was Nayyir al-Dabaran — “bright one of the follower.”

Watch Aldebaran and the Hyades as they follow the Pleiades across the sky — with the bright Moon close by.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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