• Tau - Taurus the Bull

    IAU Constellation


    17 of 88

    Astronomical Regions

    Intro and Visual description

    Taurus the Bull is easily spotted. Its head is the Hyades, a V-shaped cluster of stars. His horns point outward from the V. Aldebaran is the red eye of the Bull as he charges down upon us.

  • M45 - Pleiades

    Object image


    Like bright jewels on the back of Taurus sit the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, a tiny cluster of brilliant bluish stars. Most people can see 6 stars, but in antiquity 7 were visible. With binoculars or a telescope you can see many more.

    Tennyson wrote:

    Many a night I saw the Pleiades
    rising thro’ the mellow shade,
    Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies
    tangled in a silver braid.

    In Middle Earth, the Pleiades were known as Remmirath (the Netted Stars). (Rachel Folmar)

  • Fusion Image 4

    Source: Johann Bayer, Uranometria ("Measuring the Heavens"; Ulm, 1661); History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries
    Object: M1, the Crab Nebula, in Taurus the Bull; Hubble Space Telescope, NASA
    Composite: The Sky Tonight, skytonight.org (CC-by)

    Object description

    In the year 1054 a massive star near the tip of a horn of Taurus exploded, creating a spectacular cloud of gas. It appeared as a faint smudge of light in 18th-century telescopes. Charles Messier wrote of M1:

    “This nebula had such a resemblance to a comet in its form and brightness that I endeavored to find others, so that astronomers would not confuse these same nebulae with comets just beginning to shine.”

    The Messier catalog eventually numbered 110 objects, starting with this supernova remnant.

    Fusion Image 4

    Constellations IAU Abbr


    Constellation description

    Taurus the Bull is included in the ancient star catalogs of Eudoxos of Knidos, Aratos of Soli, and Ptolemy.

    Its head is the Hyades, a V-shaped cluster of stars. His horns point outward from the V.

    Aldebaran is the red eye of the Bull as he charges down upon us.

    Source Description

    First published in Augsburg in 1603, Bayer’s atlas consists of 51 double-page copperplate engravings.

    Bayer labeled the stars with Greek letters, according to their apparent magnitude, so that the brightest star in Taurus, the reddish Aldebaran, is alpha-Tauri. This convention is still used today. The “ecliptic,” or annual path of the Sun, runs across the Taurus plate in the center of the horizontal band representing the Zodiac.

  • Fusion Image 8

    Source: Johann Bode, Uranographia (Berlin, 1801); History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries
    Object: M45, the Pleiades, in Taurus the Bull; Bob Star (CC-by)
    Composite: The Sky Tonight, skytonight.org (CC-by)
    Fusion Image 8

    Constellations IAU Abbr


    Source Description

    Bode’s magnificent atlas fused artistic beauty and scientific precision. 20 large copperplate engravings plot more than 17,000 stars, far more than any previous atlas. Bode depicted more than 100 constellations, compared with 88 officially recognized today. Bode also included 2,500 cloudy patches, or “nebulae,” cataloged by William Herschel.  Bode, director of the Observatory of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, produced the last of the four major celestial atlases in which artful depictions of constellation figures appear alongside the most up-to-date scientific data.

  • King George's Harp

    Asterism Visual Appearance

    Located between: Cetus, Eridanus, Orion, Taurus.

    Asterism Origin and History

    Named in 1789 by Maximilian Hell, S.J., to honor King George III of England.

    Name variations: Psalterium Georgianum; Psalterium Georgii.

  • Winter Hexagon

    Asterism Visual Appearance

    The "Winter Hexagon" is a giant six-cornered pattern that is prominent in the night skies of winter. Make this hexagon pattern your frame of reference for cool autumn mornings and brisk winter evenings! The winter hexagon includes six constellations, and some of the brightest of stars visible at any time of the year from northern latitudes:

    Start with Aldebaran in Taurus, pass down to Rigel in Orion, and continue on down to Sirius in Canis Major. Then trace upward to Procyon, in Canis Minor the Little Dog. Continue on to Pollux and Castor, the two stars of Gemini, and on past them to the top of the hexagon, bright yellow Capella, lying almost straight overhead, in the constellation Auriga the Charioteer. Auriga looks more like a pentagon than a Chariot, perched on top of the horns of Taurus.

    Let's review, proceeding clockwise from Capella:

    1. Capella, the she-goat, is a bright yellow star almost directly overhead throughout the winter. It forms the top vertex of the winter hexagon.
    2. Aldebaran, the red eye of Taurus, gleaming out of the night as the bull charges down upon Orion. Look for the Hyades, a V-shaped cluster of stars that forms the bull's head.
    3. To the upper right of Sirius is Rigel, a bluish-white star, and the left foot of Orion. Look nearby for Orion's belt and bright Betelgeuse, his reddish right shoulder.
    4. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.
    5. Located above left of Sirius, Canis Minor consists of only two bright stars, and Procyon is by far the brightest.
    6. The remaining vertext of the winter hexagon is comprised of the two bright stars of Gemini: Pollux (on the Procyon side) and Castor (on the Capella side).

    As described in Starstruck Tonight:

    The Winter Hexagon contains an unrivalled collection of stars:

    • Sirius, below, is the brightest star in the night sky.
    • Capella, above, is the 6th brightest.
    • Rigel is the 7th.
    • Procyon the 8th.
    • Betelgeuse the 10th.
    • Aldebaran, Pollux, and Castor are also among the nightÍs 25 brightest stars.
    Sharp is the night, but stars with frost alive
    Leap off the rim of Earth across the dome.
    It is a night to make the heavens our home...
    George Meredith, Winter Heavens

    The two bright stars Castor and Pollux together form one vertex of the Winter Hexagon. To the Greeks, Castor and Pollux were the twin sons of Zeus and the mortal woman Leda. Homer's Iliad tells how the beauty of their sister Helen "launched a thousand ships" in the Trojan war. With the oath "By Jiminy," sailors revered the Gemini twins as the Protectors of ships. Castor, on the Capella side, is actually six stars in one, ceaselessly revolving around one another in an intricately-choreographed cosmic dance....