Brilliant Venus shines brightly this morning among the stars of Taurus the Bull.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Brilliant Venus shines from the eastern sky this morning in front of the stars of Taurus the Bull. It appears 8.6° to the lower left of Aldebaran and 6.5° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the photo above), the Southern Horn of Taurus. Venus continues to move eastward during the remainder of July as it nears ζ Tau.
Rosy Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster form a sideways “V” to represent the head of the Bull to the upper right of Venus The single bright star represents the creature’s eye. Aldebaran is about 125 times brighter than the sun and 40 times our central star’s diameter.
The Hyades is a well-studied “galactic” star cluster; that is, the cluster is part of the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, like the sun and solar system, but unlike the globular clusters that revolve around a galactic halo. The Hyades has over 125 members that are heading in space toward a spot near the star Betelgeuse.
The famous Pleiades star cluster (known to school children as the “Seven Sisters”) is above Aldebaran and the Hyades. To the unaided eye, six or seven stars are visible. Through a binocular, more than a dozen stars can be seen. In the photo above, nearly two dozen stars are visible. Detailed studies count over 200 stars in this cluster.
Astronomers think that stars are formed in clumps, somewhat like bunches of grapes. The mutual gravitational pull of the stars though is too weak to keep the clusters together. Over time, stars escape, decreasing the mutual gravitation attraction.
The Pleiades cluster is thought to be younger than the Hyades. The Pleiades cluster’s bright blue stars have short astronomical lives. The cluster is thought to be about 100 million years old while the Hyades could be six times older.
On these warm clear mornings of summer explore Taurus and its star clusters with a binocular. Each morning, notice the location of Venus within the constellation.