When I was a young I always thought it was the “little dipper”. It certainly looks like one to someone unfamiliar with the true nature of the brightest open star cluster in the Northern Hemisphere! The “Pleiades” is often referred to as “The seven sisters” but in mythology, the ancient Greek name is possibly derived from the mother “Pleione” and therefore meaning “daughters of Pleione”. Atlas was the father. The daughters are named as follows (courtesy of subaru.com.au):
Alcyone – Meaning ‘queen who wards off evil’, Alcyone is the central and largest star of the Pleiades constellation. She is often seen as representing the whole cluster of stars.
Asterope – A double star in the Pleiades constellation, literally translates as ‘lightening’.
Merope – The only Pleiad to marry a mortal, her star shines less brightly than those that represent her sisters.
Maia – The eldest of the Seven Sisters, Maia was said to be the most beautiful. According to Greek myth, Maia was a lover of Zeus and gave birth to Hermes.
Taygeta – After being defiled by Zeus while unconscious, Taygeta went into hiding. For her protection, she was transformed into a doe.
Celaeno – Celaeno was married to Poseidon. Translated, her name means ‘darkness’ or ‘blackness’. Celaeno is sometimes referred to as the Lost Pleiad, as her star is sometimes difficult to see with the naked eye.
Electra – The third brightest star in the constellation, Electra means ‘amber’, ‘shining’ and ‘bright’. Electra was the wife of Corythus. She was seduced by Zeus and gave birth to Dardanus, who became the founder of Troy.
Now back to the astronomy, the Pleiades cluster contains very hot, luminous blue stars that are fairly young, about 100 million years old! Any images taken more than a minute or so will reveal the beautiful reflection nebulae surrounding the stars which are now thought to be the result of dust from the interstellar medium through which the cluster is traveling. Finally, once I set up the new equipment on my second pier in the observatory I had to train the Tak 180 right away onto the Pleiades! This is a perfect first target for it!
Thanks for reading!