My one-on-one with the Pleiades Cluster/Seven Sisters.

My one-on-one with the Pleiades Cluster/Seven Sisters.

Hard to believe how fast we circulate the Sun. I took this at about 1am. Just a few months ago I would be outside at about the same time, if not later, waiting for Saturn to overtake the tall trees around the house. I don’t have a great camera, but the last time Alcyone and company were up, I did not have the little nuances down in how to resolves as much detail as I could.

It’s different this time around. The pictures this time around are great. It has turned from 6-7+ blurry balls (last year) to roughly 35 points of light.

Interesting things to know about the Seven Sisters/Pleiades.. it is one of the closest, brightest and youngest star clusters to the Earth. It is about 8 light years wide, but it’s tidal influence (due to the large amount of mass in a relatively small area) reaches about 45 light years. It is roughly 400 light years away. It is barely visible here, but Hubble easily catches the blue haze reflection nebula surrounding the cluster. It was thought to be leftover gas from the creation of the cluster, but is actually gaseous interstellar medium it just happens to be moving through. The cluster also is theorized to carry a ton of brown dwarfs. Failed stars.

Our Sun is close to 5 BILLION years old. This cluster, in comparison, is a group of newborns. Estimations have it being born around just 50-100 million years old. The dinosaurs were going extinct, or were entirely gone when this cluster began lighting up the sky.

If you want to know what this cluster looked like before it started forming stars, take a look at the Orion Nebula this winter. They’re forming under similar conditions. Coincidentally enough, Pleiades is actually moving towards the Orion constellation.

The seven brightest stars have cool names. The brightest form what looks like a small dipper, with the brightest and largest being the one that seems to connect the handle to the spoon. It’s name is Alcyone. It actually has a binary star orbiting it at about the same distance that Jupiter orbits our Sun. That binary also has two star companions orbiting it. The other bright stars in this cluster (the Greeks considered it a constellation I believe, as many other ancient cultures from Native Americans to Egyptians revered this cluster. The Pantheon was built in relation to where Pleiades rises from the horizon) have pretty cool names.

They are: Pleione, Atlas (the two stars at the end of the ‘handle’), Alcyone (already mentioned), Merope, Electra, Caleano, Maia, Taygeta and Sterope.

But ultimately, I just posted this because it’s so amazing and beautiful. It’s somehow empowering to sit in the middle of a neighborhood road with a jungle surrounding me, shielding the camera from any ambient light.. having the tree tops frame these sparkling gems, for lack of a better term. Just.. hanging out. The joy of it being in the middle of the night made it feel as if I had this sight all to myself. It’s just a personally held illusion, but a beautiful one nonetheless.


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