Taurus - Constellation of the Month
Updated: Apr 5, 2020
Taurus is one of the 12 signs of the Zodiac and has been recognised as a constellation for thousands of years.
One of the oldest references comes from cave paintings in the Dordogne region of France, known as the Lascaux caves. One in particular seems to show Taurus, Pleiades and the neighbouring constellation of Orion. These paintings have been dated at over 15,000 years old suggesting that mankind has been looking at the heavens since ancient times!
The most famous version of mythology stems from the story of Zeus and his courting of Europa.
Zeus disguised himself as a handsome white bull that attracted Europa’s attention. She adorned the bull with flowers and was amazed by its placid nature. When the bull lay down, she climbed upon its back, at which point Zeus waded out into the water and swam to Crete with Europa still on his back.
Once there, Europa realised that this was no ordinary bull and when Zeus revealed himself to her, she gave herself to him. One of their offspring included Minos, king of Crete, who would go on to build the Labyrinth that housed the famous Minotaur. Zeus later immortalised his disguise by placing the bull in the sky as Taurus..
The most famous star in Taurus in the Red Giant, Aldebaran. To find Taurus and Aldebaran, one can draw a line through Orion’s belt.
Aldebaran marks the tip of one of the bull’s horns and shines orange to the naked eye. The name stems from the Greek meaning ‘The Follower’ as the star seems to follow the Pleiades, or 7 Sisters, across the sky.
The star is in the latter stages of its life and has cooled and swelled to mammoth promotions, estimated to be 50x the radius of our Sun and over 400x brighter!
DEEP SKY OBJECTS
Taurus is home to the most famous Open Cluster of stars in the night sky.
The Pleiades, or 7 Sisters, represent the 7 daughters of Atlas in Greek Mythology. Although only 6 or 7 stars are visible to the naked eyes, the cluster contains more than 1000 associated baby stars, all created from the same gas cloud, that are moving through space together as they embark on their own stellar adventures.
Pleiades was known in ancient times and its heliacal rising (when it was visible just before sunrise) marked the time of year to begin planting crops as it signified the start of summer and its associated rains.