January 22-24, 2021: The bright gibbous moon moves through Taurus during the evening.
During three nights in January the bright gibbous moon moves through Taurus the Bull. The constellation is distinct and easily spotted high in the southeast after sunset, although the bright moon’s light makes viewing it a little difficult.
The brightest star is rosy Aldebaran, “the follower. The star follows the Pleiades star cluster into the sky.
In many representations of the celestial bull, Aldebaran is the bull’s eye. The star is near a checkmark shape known as the Hyades star cluster. Aldebaran and the cluster make a sideways letter “V” for the head.
In his study of star names, George Davis also notes that Aldebaran and the Hyades together are referred to as “the follower.”
They are following the Pleiades, a naked-eye star cluster to the upper right of Aldebaran. It resembles a miniature dipper or a tiny bunch of grapes. The stars are not bright, by together they easily catch your eye when you look up.
Drawings of Taurus often show the Pleiades on the back of the bull.
The bull has two long horns, not like a Texas longhorn, rather resembling an addax or oryx. The points of the horn are marked by Elnath, “the one butting with horns,” and Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the chart).
On January 22-24, the moon moves through this region. Because it is over 70% illuminated during these nights, block out the moon’s brightness as you would with the sun. Hold your hand up to cover the moon. Alternately, use a binocular to see the starfield behind the bright moon.
Find the moon and Taurus high in the southeast after sunset. Aldebaran is high in the south about three hours after sunset. As the night progresses, the moon and constellation move farther west. They set in the west at about 3:30 a.m. CST (Less than 4 hours before sunrise.)
The photo above shows a way to block the moon’s bright light, when leaves were on the trees.
Here’s what to look for;
- January 22: The bright gibbous moon is 15° to the right of Aldebaran.
- January 23: The gibbous moon, 78% illuminated, is 4.3° to the upper left of Aldebaran.
- January 24: The moon is 86% illuminated. It is between the horns of Taurus, 4.7° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau) and 6.0° to the lower right of Elnath (β Tau).
Read more about the planets during January.
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