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December 8th, 2015
Astronomically speaking, winter is a great time for observers in the northern hemisphere. Not only can we admire the beautiful Orion Nebula, but we’re also treated to the Pleiades, a stunning open star cluster in the constellation of Taurus the Bull.
Easily found by following the three stars of Orion’s belt up toward Taurus, it’s a famous cluster that’s been known by numerous names across the world for many, many years. In Japan, it’s known as the Subaru (hence, the car manufacturer) while elsewhere it’s known as the Seven Sisters. And this is something of a mystery because although the cluster is easily seen with just your eyes, most observers can only count six stars at most. So what happened to the seventh?
It’s a large cluster (it appears twice the size of the full Moon in the sky) and, consequently, some say it’s best observed with binoculars where it can be appreciated against the background sky.
However, if you turn a small telescope toward it with a low magnification eyepiece, you won’t be disappointed. The entire cluster should fit into the field of view at about 35x with hundreds of blue-white stars scattered across the scene. Increasing the magnification might actually ruin the effect.
Lastly, if you get the opportunity, observe this cluster well away from any light pollution. You won’t regret it.
Slightly adapted from my new book, Easy Things to See With a Small Telescope: A Beginner’s Guide to Over 60 Easy-to-Find Night Sky Sights. Paperback edition available now from Amazon in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. (Kindle version coming soon!)
Easy Things to See With a Small Telescope
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