Taurus, the bull, is one of the most prominent constellations in the night sky. Not only is it referenced in almost all classical mythology, it dates back to the early Bronze Age!
Taurus is likely to be the first constellation noted give its prominence and was once known as the bull of heaven. In Roman Astrology, Taurus was considered the goddess of beauty and nature.
In Greek mythology, Zeus assumes the form of a magnificent white bull to abduct the Phoenician Princess Europa.
After trudging through Pisces and Aries, Taurus has many features that interest astronomers greatly. Two of the largest open star clusters are within Taurus, the Pleiades and Hyades superclusters. Both are visible to the naked eye and contains hundreds and thousands of stars. They are 444 and 153 lightyears from us respectively.
We see them as a single star with the naked eye but through a telescope some stars can be singled out within the cluster. The Pleiades cluster contains a number of hot blue stars.
Aldebaran is the brightest individual star in Taurus at 65 light years away. It’s the 14th brightest star in our night sky, even brighter than Polaris the North Star. The NASA probe Pioneer 10 is heading in the direction of the star but will not reach it for another 2 million years or so.
Aldeberan is 44 times the diameter of our Sun. In kilometres, it is 61 million kilometres wider. Planets orbiting the star haven’t been actually confirmed but it is most likely to have a gas giant in its orbit.
My favourite feature in Taurus is the Crab Nebula. I would strongly recommend finding it with a telescope. The Crab Nebula is the debris left over from a supernova explosion with many different colours. The Nebula is one of our nearest star forming regions.
The two horns of the bull are Beta Tauri and Zeta Tauri, two star systems separated by 8 degrees on the celestial sphere. Zeta Tauri is a binary system in which two stars orbit one another. Cosmic dance partners. All the stars with Tauri at the end of their name originate in Taurus. Not to be confused with the Centauri stars though!
The Taurid Meteor shower is one of the best known showers which originated from a large comet that has been disintegrating for the past 30,000 years. Given the time of the year the shower is also known as The Halloween fireballs.
Next up Gemini.