The Seven Sisters

The beautiful Pleiades cluster. Image: APOD 9-18-2013

The beautiful Pleiades cluster. Image: APOD 9-18-2013

The Pleiades (pronounced plee-AH-dees) star cluster, also affectionately known as the Seven Sisters, shine brightly in the constellation Taurus. It is one of the largest star clusters you could see with the naked eye, so be sure to look out for it! Today, we are going to look at some really interesting facts about this star cluster! Let's begin!

1- Another name is also Messier 45 to astronomer catalogs and Subaru to the Japanese (next time you go look at the car logo and you'll notice some of the stars featured!)

2- The stars are of blue color, meaning extremely hot (hotter than our Sun) and have all formed together from the same "cradle cloud" within the last 100 million years

3-The star cluster is approximately 444 light years away. Which means it takes 444 years for the light from that cluster to reach Earth detection. The cluster is expected to live for another 250 million years.

4- Clusters are gravitationally bound so that the stars are traveling through space at the same rate! Plus these stars are the same age. Which means, once one goes ka-boom, they all go ka-boom, like Christmas lights!

5- There is a theory about how our Solar System may have formed and that our Sun when at an infant stage was accreted from the nebulous gas of a Pleiades-like cluster that went ka-boom. Why this is speculation is because we are detecting metals beyond our Solar System that could not be produced enough by our own Sun. These metals may have been from earlier explosions of stars incredibly nearby.

6- The cluster itself is made up of hundreds of stars, but only seven are bright enough to see (or ten if you have really dark skies!) The brightest star in the cluster is named Alcyone.

7- The names of the brighter stars are named after Seven Sisters in Greek Mythology, each having their own myth. These are the daughters of Atlas, the titan who held up the Earth.

Thank you for reading and come back next week on some nomenclature fun! 

Caitlin Ahrens