Taurus the Bull

Mythology

Taurus is one of the ancient constellations. There are many stories from many cultures about this group of stars and the smaller asterisms, the Hyades and Pleiades.

Many cultures saw this constellation as a bull, including the Greeks. In their story, Jupiter developed romantic intentions toward Europa, who was not impressed and would have nothing to do with the god. Pulling a slight of hand, Jupiter changed himself into a white bull and wandered towards Europa who was picking flowers in a nearby field. Europa was impressed and petted the snowy white coat and finally got on the bull's back. Immediately the bull dashed away and bore the helpless Europa back to Crete. There, Jupiter revealed himself. Whether Europa was impressed by Jupiter's shape shifting abilities or Jupiter himself, she married him. Taurus is said to represent that bull.

The Pleiades are said to represent seven sisters. There are countless stories about how they came to reside there. One story tells that they were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. When Atlas was given the task of holding the world on his shoulders, the daughters were so grief striken that the gods felt sorry for them and transformed them into the stars. In another story, the great hunter Orion took a liking to all of the sisters and pursued them incessantly. In an apparent attack of conscience, and seeing as it was not himself doing the chasing, Jupiter felt sorry for the girls and placed them in the sky to allow them to escape Orion.

The Hyades have long been associated with rainy weather, no doubt because they rise in the fall, often a rainy season. The Arabs referred to this group of stars as the "Little she-camels." According to the Greeks, the Hyades were five sisters who belonged to Atlas. The Hyades were said to be half sisters to the Pleiades, apparently Atlas got around! In any case, the five sisters were changed into stars because of grief over their brother Hyas who had been killed by a wild boar.

For the Observer

Autumn and Winter Skies

Alpha Tauri, Aldebaran (04h33m +16° 25') is said to mean the "follower of the Pleiades. It is a yellow 0.9 magnitude class K5 giant about 70 light years distant. Aldebaran has a red dwarf companion of 13th magnitude, thus making Aldebaran slightly variable.

Beta Tauri, El Nath (05h23.1m +28° 34') El Nath is frequently shared betwen Taurus and Auriga. It does technically belong to Taurus, but makes the completion of the pentagon shape of Auriga. El Nath is a blue giant class B2 star with a magnitude of 1.7. The star is about 300 light years distant.

M1 (NGC1952) the Crab Nebula (05h31.5m +21° 59') M1 is a supernova remnant from an eruption noted in 1054AD. It is a dense nebulous region with a magnitude of 8. It appears as a hazy oval in a 6 inch telescope, a 10 inch or larger begins to reveal detail.

M45 The Pleiades (03h 43.9m +23° 58') are perhaps the best known Messier object. They are a loose open cluster of young hot blue stars about 400 light years distant. Low power in a telescope will show a marvelous sight.

NGC1817 (05h09.2m +16° 38') is a loose open cluster with about 50 stars ranging in magnitude from 10 to 14.


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Kathy Miles, Author, and Chuck Peters, Systems Administrator
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