One of the most striking and oldest constellations in the sky, Taurus has many prominent and visible stars. Read this UniverSavvy article for some interesting facts about this spectacular constellation.
Did You Know?
The 17th brightest constellation in the sky, Taurus is a fairly prominent constellation in the northern sky. In Latin, it means bull, and is symbolized by a bull’s head (♉). The bull’s head seems to be glaring at the Orion constellation which follows Taurus. This spectacular constellation is very popular as it has many stellar bodies in it.
We discuss the different stars, star clusters, and other interesting facts about Taurus constellation along with its mythology, in this UniverSavvy article.
Taurus Quick Facts
- Location: Taurus lies in the first quadrant of the Northern Hemisphere and can be seen between latitudes +90° and -65°.
- Area of sky covered: 797 square degrees
- Stars: Alpha Tauri (Aldebaran), Beta Tauri (Elnath), Gamma Tauri (Hyadum I), Delta Tauri (Hyadum II), Epsilon Tauri (Oculus Boreus), Eta Tauri (Alcyone)
- Brightest star: Aldebaran is the brightest star in the Taurus constellation. It is a red giant, also called the eye of the bull. The word Aldebaran means follower, which aptly suits the star as it seems to be following the seven sisters or Pleiades.
It is 500 times more luminous than the Sun. Its official name is Alpha Tauri, and it is 65 light years away from Earth. The apparent magnitude is 0.87. It is one of the brightest and easily visible stars in the sky.
- Meteor showers: Taurids and Beta Taurids. Taurids can be seen in November, whereas the Beta Taurids in June and July.
- The Neighbors: Auriga, Aries, Perseus, Cetus, Eridanus, Orion, and Gemini are the neighbors of Taurus. To the west of Taurus lies Aries, and to its East is the Gemini constellation. Orion lies to the Southeast, and seems to be following Taurus.
Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant, is also a part of the Taurus constellation. It is at a distance of 6,500 light years and is the first Messier object to be listed. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 8.4.
Taurus hosts two open clusters of stars the Pleiades and the Hyades.
- Pleiades is a open star cluster visible to the naked eye.
- It’s officially called Messier 45/M45 and popularly known as Seven Sisters.
- It gets its name from the six very hot blue and luminous stars.
- All the members of the Pleiades are stars belonging to the spectral class B.
- The brightest stars are named after Atlas, Pleione, and their seven daughters: Sterope, Merope, Electra, Maia, Taygeta, Celaeno, and Alcyone.
- Pleiades has formed in the last 100 million years and will survive for another 250 million years.
- After which it will disperse due to gravitational effects.
|Stars in Pleiades|
|Alcyone||Eta (25) Tauri||2.86|
|Pleione||28 (BU) Tauri||5.09|
Hyades is the closest open cluster of stars to the Earth. It is around 625 million years old with an apparent magnitude of 0.5. It has 300 to 400 stars of same age and chemical composition. According to Greek mythology, even the stars in Hyades are daughters of Atlas, and thus considered as half-sisters of the Pleiades.
Taurus in Greek Mythology
According to the Greek Mythology, Zeus wanted to marry Phoenician Princess Europa and hence, took the form of a white bull to abduct her. He gained Europa’s attention by mingling with the herd. She was impressed with this spectacular bull whose features stood out, and she went on to garland him. When she sat on his back, Zeus took her all the way to Crete. Zeus had three sons with Europa, including Minos, the king of ancient Crete. Later, Zeus immortalized the bull by placing it in the sky.
Other Interesting Facts
- Taurus includes the intersection of the galactic equator, celestial equator, and ecliptic; the only constellation to contain such an alignment.
- International Astronomical Union has abbreviated Taurus as “Tau”.
- Taurus was called The Heavenly Bull by Babylonian astronomers.
- The best time to watch this constellation at nighttime during the month of January in the Northern Hemisphere; 9 p.m. in January to be precise. It is visible in both hemispheres, but will look inverted in the southern half. It can be easily seen in the winter sky that is from October to March in the Northern Hemisphere, and the summer sky in the Southern Hemisphere.