Back to: Weekend Sky Report
November 13, 2020
Right in the center of Taurus the Bull is the bright orange giant Aldebaran. Aldebaran is close… just over 60 light years away. And because of that, it’s easy to miss what’s behind it… about 90 light years behind it, to be exact. But even then, at over 150 light years away, the Hyades is one of the closest open star clusters. Compare that to the Pleiades at well over 400 light years away.
In Greek mythology, the Hyades are daughters of Atlas. As are the Pleiades… and following the death of their brother Hyas, their grief transformed them into stars. And their weeping for the loss of their brother… makes the rain.
When it’s not raining, you can see the Hyades by finding their sisters, the Pleiades in the eastern sky this evening. When you find the Pleiades, which is a cluster of bright blue stars you can easily see with the naked eye, look beneath it to find the bright, orange Aldebaran. Then grab your binoculars or any telescope and look straight at it… you’ll notice several bright white and yellowish stars just below and to the right of Aldebaran...and there you have it. The Hyades. Now, along with Aldebaran, the four brightest stars of the Hyades make up the head of Taurus the Bull. And since the Hyades is one of the closest and most studied open star clusters in the sky, we’ve known for a while why those four stars are so much brighter than the rest of the cluster. They’ve exhausted their core hydrogen and are evolving into giants. One of the final stages before their demise… in a few million years.