Taurus, one of the zodiacal constellations, is most easily identified by it’s distinct and bright V-shaped asterism that represents the face of the bull. Taurus was one of the 48 constellations cataloged by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy that remains among the 88 modern constellations. This constellation reaches its highest nightfall ascension in February, and is found by tracing Orion’s belt stars to the right to Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri), the bright reddish star nearby. The outlying stars in this constellation can be difficult to locate in light polluted skies.
With the exception of the brightest star, Aldebaran, the V-shaped asterism previously mentioned are stars withing the Hyades open star cluster, which is the closest open star cluster to us here on Earth. Many more stars in this cluster can be detected with binoculars or a small telescope. Also in Taurus is the brightest an most distinct open star cluster that we can see from Earth, The Pleiades (M45, or The Seven Sisters), which is located northwest of the V-shaped astersm toward and near Perseus. This open star cluster, sometimes mistakenly thought to be the Little Dipper, becomes even more beautiful with even the slightest magnification. The only other Messier object is M1, the Crab Nebula, which was created by a supernova explosion that was bright enough to be seen in the daytime sky in July of 1054.
© James R. Johnson, 2014.