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Taurus is another feature of the winter skies in the Northern Hemisphere. The large bull is directly above Orion in the skies and has as one of its residents the giant red star Aldebaran. This red star, which is about forty times the size of our Sun, is the landmark of this constellation.
In addition to Aldebaran, Taurus is also the home of two very famous sky sights, the Crab Nebula and the beautiful Pleiades cluster. The Pleiades cluster is one of the very best things to look at either with your new telescope or with a good pair of binoculars. This beautiful cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters is very easy to locate and is one of the objects in the sky that doesn't require sophisticated equipment to enjoy. Once you have found Taurus, look above and a little to the right of Aldebaran to see this beautiful star cluster. Once you have the cluster in your binoculars, what looks like a fuzzy patch to the naked eye will change into at least six, and probably seven individual stars. Go out and see it!
The Crab Nebula
In 1054 A.D., Chinese astronomers wrote down that a "guest star" had suddenly appeared in their night skies. At the same time, Native Americans made drawings in at least two places that appear to record the same event. What was somewhat casually noted as a guest star was in fact a giant star that had violently exploded at the end of its life. An explosion of this type is called a supernova. The explosion was so large and so bright that it was visible in broad daylight for at least twenty-three days. It must have been amazing! You can still see the remnants of this explosion in Taurus. It is called the Crab Nebula.
The Crab Nebula is one of the most intensely studied and frequently photographed objects in the night sky. Almost every telescope has taken pictures of it because of its beauty. You can also see it with almost any telescope or good pair of binoculars, but don't expect the colors to be as brilliant as the ones in the picture we show. It's still worth seeing, though. Although this explosion happened almost a thousand years ago, the gases are still spreading out in space at a speed of thousands of miles per hour.
When Can I see Taurus?
Since Taurus is located directly above Orion in the sky, you can see it any time that Orion is visible. This means that you can see the Bull in the morning skies dur the late fall and in the evening skies during the winter.
Once you have found Orion, use the chart we have prepared at the right to easily find the Bull. Look above Orion for Aldebaran, which is the bull's eye. Once you have found the eye, locating the rest of the constellation should be a piece of cake. Don't forge to take the time to look for the Crab Nebula and the Pleiades cluster!
Find Out More About Taurus
- SEDS Crab Nebula Page
- The Students for the Exploration and Development of Space have a very good page about the historical records of the Crab Nebula.
- Chris Dolan's Taurus Page
- Chris Dolan's Taurus page has lots of technical information about the stars that make up Taurus
- Richard Dibon-Smith's Taurus Page
- Richard Dibon-Smith's Taurus page has an excellent account of the fascinating mythology of Taurus as well as information about the many double and triple stars that make up this constellation.
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