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Nothing But the Facts About The M45 Star Cluster

written by: Anurag Ghosh•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 5/25/2011

Also known as the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters or Messier 45, this open star cluster contains over a thousand stars, but you can see only a few of them during the winter season. Here are some more information and facts about the star cluster, including myths and history.

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    Interesting Facts: History and Mythology

    The Pleiades Open Cluster Through the Hubble Telescope 1. Symbolism: Seven Sisters, Sailing Queen

    2. Right ascension: 3 hours 47 minutes

    3. Declination: +24 degrees

    4. Latitudes visible at: Between +90 degrees and -65 degrees

    5. The best time to view: The star cluster is best viewed when they reach their highest point in the sky, midway between rising and setting around 4 AM in September, midnight in November and 8 PM in January.

    6. Area of sky: It appears in the constellation of Taurus. (Hyades also appears in this constellation.)

    7. Nearest star: The cluster is about 440 light-years from Earth.

    8. Meteor showers: A meteor shower located near Messier 45 is called the Taurids. This meteor shower is visible from November 3 - 13 and has showers that are low in numbers, but produce some bright and slow moving meteors.

    9. Mythology: The Pleiades are rich in mythology. They are the companions of Artemis and are the seven daughters of Atlas and1885 Oil On Canvas painting by Elihu Vedder Depicting the Greek Mythology Surrounding the Star Cluster  Pleione. They are the sisters of Calypso, Hyas, the Hyades and the Hesperides. Several prominent Olympian gods were engaged in affairs with the sisters. According to the Greek mythology, only six of the stars shine brightly in the star cluster because the seventh, Merope, is shamed for eternity for having an affair with a mortal and hence her shine is dull. Other myths say that the seventh star, which doesn't shine as brightly, is Electra. She is said to have left her place so that she will not have to look down on the ruin of Troy, which was founded by her son Dardanus. Also, some myths mention Orion to be always in pursuit of the open cluster in the night sky.

    10. Historical importance: On March 4, 1769, Charles Messier included this open cluster as No. 45 in his first list of nebulae and star clusters. The Messier 45 has been mentioned throughout history. It is among a few objects that have been known since the earliest times. The earliest known references to the star cluster are in Homer's "Odyssey" and they were also mentioned by Hesiod in about 700 B.C. They were connected to agriculture back then. The Bible also makes references to the star cluster three times.

    11. The Seven Sisters: The names of the Seven Sisters are Alcyone, Electra, Maia, Merope, Taygeta, Celaeno, Sterope. Along with the seven sisters are the mother and father. The mother's called Pleione and the father Atlas.

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    More Facts

    Color-Composite Image of the M45 1. M45 was known to all civilizations by different names. The Aztecs called it Tianquiztli, which means “marketplace". It was named Parveen by the Persians and Tzab-ek by the Mayans. The Indians called the star cluster Krittika, which means “the cutters".

    2. The star cluster contains more than 1,000 confirmed stars. There are plenty of hot blue stars and 14 of them can be seen with the unaided eye.

    3. The Nebra Sky Disk is known to be the earliest artifact to sport a visual description of the Messier 45. It is a Bronze Age artifact belonging to the Unetice culture and was created in c. 1600 BC. Made entirely from bronze, the artifact is 30 cm in diameter and has a unique bluish-greenish varnish with gold symbols depicting the Pleiades star cluster, Sun, full Moon and other objects. The artifact confirms the observational skills of the people of the Unetice culture and may have religious connotations. The Sky Disk was found in an archeological site near Nebra in Germany.

    4. Some of the stars in this open cluster can be visible to the naked eye. People in the northern hemisphere can view them during the winter season. You will need a pair of binoculars to have a clearer view of the star cluster. With the unaided eye, you can view about 6 stars.

    5. Using the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram and stellar evolution models, scientists came to the conclusion that the ages for the M45 is between 75 and 150 million years.

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    Image Credits:

    The Pleiades Star Cluster Map by NASA, ESA and AURA/Caltech (Public Domain):

    Color-Composite Image of the M45:

    Oil on Canvas Painting of the Seven Sisters: