Astronomy Viewing the Pleiades in June

The Pleiades, is a beautiful naked eye cluster of stars found within the constellation of Taurus. To people like the ancient American Indians, and the ancient Mayan people this asterism of stars represented everything from when to plant crops, to when to start the fertility rites. The best time to view The Pleiades for me is in the early part of June. I love observing this cluster because it contains a wonderful nebulous region.

The series of nebula’s within Taurus are mainly concentrated in the Pleiades. This asterism of stars was once considered a constellation in its own rights, but was demoted later on, like poor old Pluto.

The Pleiades is said to represent the seven sisters who were the kin of The Hyades (which is another star cluster). This arrangement of stars is ancient and are named from left to right, as you would view them in a telescope as Pleione, Atlas, Alcyone, Merope, Maia, Asterope, Taygeta, Celaeno, and Electra.

The main nebula’s are really stationary nebula’s that are visible, only because they are illuminated by the stars themselves speeding through the stationary molecular clouds. As these stars speed headlong through this hydrogen cloud mass, they move at the incredible speed of approximately 7 miles a second (11 kilometers per second). Each one of these stars is about 100 million years old, which is fairly young when you consider our Sun is about 5 billion years old. This youth is evident in the bright blue color that they display.

NGC1432 and NGC1435

The nebulous regions surrounding these stars that make up the Pleiades are cataloged in “The New General Catalog” as NGC1432 and NGC1435 these beautiful nebulous clouds are only visible in long CCD or 35mm exposures of the 4th magnitude star Merope. This is a 30th magnitude reflection nebula that is designated as NGC1435. This star appears in our 24 inch (600mm) reflector, working with an “Orion Star Shoot” camera operating at prime focus, with an exposure time of 45 minutes to reveal an excellent image of the nebula. This exposure time however does tend to over expose the stars, but does allow the nebulosity to show up, a shorter exposure time of the stars alone will reveal a better image of the stars that can be later stacked and manipulated to produce an excellent image of this region. This same procedure holds true for the other nebula known as NGC1432 (Maia Nebula). Both of these nebulas can be found at or around 03h 46m 14s, with a declination of + 24 degrees 23am 30as.

So remember, when spring and early summer roll around go outside with a good pair of binoculars and make yourself comfortable under the stars, and look to the east, and you will be rewarded with a collection of stars that have marveled man since he was first capable of gazing at the stars.