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Volume 15, Issue 31 ~ August 2- August 8, 2007

Meet the Celestial Sisters

The Pleiades and the Hyades Illuminate Taurus the Bull

A waning gibbous moon rises after nightfall at week’s end. Monday the first-quarter moon rises just before midnight, with Mars trailing about five degrees behind. The red light of Aldebaran follows another five degrees behind Mars, with the three forming a line. The next evening, the now-crescent moon rises in the northeast at 12:30am with Mars and Aldebaran forming a triangle.

Aldebaran is the brightest star in the constellation Taurus, but the bull is also home to the Pleiades and the Hyades star clusters.

Even under urban conditions, six stars of the Pleiades appear amid the shoulder of Taurus, although a seventh has succumbed to the glare of the modern world. Clear conditions and binoculars will reveal several other dim stars, while a backyard telescope brings as many as a dozen into view. Astronomers have discovered nearly 500 faint stars adding to the overall brightness of this cluster. In Greek mythology the original seven stars were the daughters of Atlas and Pleione: Alcyone, Sterope, Electra, Maia, Merope, Taygeta and Celaeno.

The Hyades — Phaesyle, Coronis, Cleia, Phaeo and Eudore — were daughters of Atlas and Aethra, and thus half-sisters to the Pleiades. Ovid refers to the Hyades and traces the word to hyein, meaning to rain. When a lioness killed the sisters’ brother Hyas, the maidens wept until Zeus, fearing they would flood the earth, placed them in the heavens. The Hyades form the distinct V shape of Taurus’ face, but they are otherwise dim and diffuse compared to the Pleiades. However, as the closest star cluster to earth, the Hyades helped astronomers calculating interstellar distances, the age of the universe and its rate of expansion.


Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2007 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.

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