Featured Deep Sky Objects

Deep Sky Object Chart | Aldebaran / Hyades Cluster
| El Nath | Lambda Tauri | NGC 1555 | Crab Nebula
| NGC 1514 | NGC 1647 | NGC 1746

Easily visible to the unaided eye, the Pleiades are sometimes mistakenly referred to as the "little dipper" - and they do have a dipperish shape, but the actual little dipper is some sixty degrees to the north, not part of Taurus at all. A more proper nickname for the Pleiades is the "seven sisters". As you can see, all seven - plus a few cousins - have names. Can you spot them in binoculars, and recite their names?

In ancient times, the cluster was considered to have a magical tie to the spring season, which is when the sun is in this part of the sky; thus, the Pleiades earned names like "the stars of abundance", "the stars of the season of blossoms" etc. In Europe, they are traditionally viewed as stars signalling the beginning of the safe navigation season and thus are the "sailor's stars". To native Americans, these seven were maidens that ran to the sky to escape a marauding bear; the striking Devil's Tower in Wyoming was raised for them to use as a ladder in this legend, and the mountain's ragged sides still have the scars of his frustrated claws.

Today, most stargazers can spot six of the sisters - and the fact that cultures have always counted seven has astronomers wondering if one of them has dimmed slightly. But sharp-eyed folks today might see eleven or so; and with binoculars, in excess of fifty more. Under dark skies, telescopes can spot several hundred! Suprisingly, large telescopes and high magnifications are not much use here, because the cluster is so large that viewing a small piece of it ruins the impression. Telescopes are really best used for viewing some of the faint wisps of nebulosity that surround the cluster, especially around the star Merope.

Home Crab Nebula NGC 1514