Attached is a picture I took of the zodiac constellation Taurus. Taurus
looks like the head of a bull and can be found by looking high in the south at about 8 p.m. this time of year. The bright star Aldebaran (lower right of center) is anorange giant star 65 light years away that aids in locating Taurus in the sky.
To the right of Aldebaran is a sprinkling of fainter stars from the star cluster Hyades. Forming a ‘V’ in Taurus, the Hyades are the closest cluster of stars to us at ‘only’ 150 light years distant.
Even farther, the Pleiades star cluster (also known as the Seven Sisters) is in the upper right of the picture. Often mistaken for the little dipper, it is the second nearest star cluster to us at 400 light years away. If we look closely at the Pleiades we can see the patchy gas clouds illuminated by the stars in the Pleiades cluster.
The star clusters Hyades and Pleiades are typical clusters that are found in the plane of our Milky Way galaxy. They are both ‘open’ clusters, meaning they are a loose assembly of stars that formed from a big cloud of gas and will drift apart over millions of years. Our own Sun formed in a star cluster and drifted out on its own in the same manner.
Note the subtle color difference between the two star clusters. The Pleiades are bluer and the Hyades are more yellow. This is an indication of different star temperatures, blue stars being hotter than yellow. Also note the dark patches in Taurus where there are a lack of distant background stars. This is where clouds of dark gases are blocking us from seeing distant stars. At some point in the distant future these dark clouds will form new star clusters.
So when you’re out at night look high in the south to see if you can find Taurus, Aldebaran, and the Pleiades. Or better yet, come to the Bowman Observatory on the grounds of Julian Curtiss School to see them up close through the telescope.