|Winter: Orion Canis Major Canis Minor Monoceros Lepus Eridanus Taurus Auriga Camelopardalis Lynx Gemini Cancer|
|Spring: Hydra Sextans Crater Corvus Leo Leo Minor Ursa Major Ursa Minor Canes Venatici Coma Berenices Virgo Bootes|
|Summer: Draco Corona Borealis Hercules Ophiuchus Serpens Libra Scorpius Sagittarius Scutum Aquila Sagitta Vulpecula Lyra Cygnus|
|Autumn: Andromeda Perseus Pegasus Cassiopeia Cephus Cetus Lacerta Delphinus Equuleus Capricornus Aquarius Pisces Aries|
|Southern Skies: Centaurus Crux Lupus Corona Australis Piscis Australis Sculptor Tucana Fornax Dorado Columba Puppis Carina|
Although Taurus and Orion appear to be engaged in a titanic celestial stand-off, there is no mythological connection between them. Taurus, the bull, is quite prepared to stand alone in the sky. He needs no prima donna hero to bolster his status. Throughout the history of the human species the bull has represented the epitome of strength and dignity. His revered image adorns the caves of Paleolithic man, the tombs of Pharaohs, and the halls of kings. Nearly every culture on Earth has classic myths about bulls in their history, and a bull was seen in the stars of Taurus as far back as 4000 BC.
The Greeks had three prominent myths concerning bulls. There was the Creton Bull, battled and defeated by Hercules, and the famous Minotaur, of the labyrinth, slain by Theseus. The myth most often associated with the image in the stars is that of Zeus taking on the form of an enormous white bull, and carrying off the maiden Europa - not entirely unwilling - and swimming across the sea to the island of Crete with her. There, back in the form of a man, Zeus fathered three sons by her, and was so enamoured with her charms he placed the form of the great white bull in the sky to commemorate their unusual courtship. The constellation contains only the head and shoulders of the bull, the rest of his body hidden beneath the waves as he swims the sea.
Taurus is readily identified just above right of Orion by the huge "V" of stars representing the face and horns of the bull, and his prominent red eye, the alpha star Aldebaran. Its name means the follower, as it appears to follow the sisters Pleiades across the sky. At magnitude 0.86, it is the thirteenth brightest star in the sky. It is a K5 red giant, 40 times the diameter of the Sun, 68 light years away.
Aldebaran sits on the edge of a loose cluster of stars called the Hyades. The Hyades were the daughters of Atlas, half-sisters of the Pleiades, who cared for the infant Bacchus, and were rewarded with a place in the heavens.
The sparkling Pleiades is the most famous star cluster in the heavens, visible to the naked eye, and a wonderful sight through binoculars or a low power telescope. Although large telescopes reveal the group to contain hundreds of stars, it has been known since antiquity as the seven sisters, even though there are only six bright stars. This has led to much speculation as to the seventh sister, the lost Pleiad. Aratus writes, "Their number seven, though the myths oft say, and poets feign, that one has passed away."
Myths concerning the lost Pleiad are surprisingly universal, and can be found in the ancient lore of Japan, Australia, Africa, and Borneo. In the Greek world there are two stories. One is that the seventh star is that of Merope, the only sister that married a mortal instead of a god, impelling her to hide her face in shame. The other popular explanation is that the lost Pleiad is Electra, the mother of Dardanus, the founder of Troy. Inconsolable at the burning of that great city, and the suffering of her family, she veiled her face and fled the group, occasionally returning for a brief visit in the form of a comet. Curiously, many cultures speak of a seventh star that disappeared around the time of the Trojan war.
Perhaps in antiquity there were seven bright stars...
Just inside the tip of the bull's lower horn is the Crab Nebula (M1), the first object classified by Charles Messier. Charles Messier was a comet hunter. In fact he was the first comet hunter. And in his search for comets he found he wasted a lot of time watching objects that looked like comets but didn't move, and he decided to make a list of these objects and chart their positions, so they would never be confused with comets again. He had no idea what these objects were, and simply referred to them as nebula, meaning something vague and indistinct. His list became the famous Messier Catalogue, used to this day by astronomers around the world. Although most of the Messier Objects in his catalogue were later learned to be galaxies and star clusters, Messier's first entry, the Crab Nebula, is a true nebula: an immense cloud of gas and dust. This particular nebula is the remnant of a star that exploded (supernova) in the year 1054 AD. At least that's when it was seen here on Earth and recorded by Chinese and Japanese observers. But since it is 6,300 light years away, the light from the explosion took 6,300 years to get here, which means the explosion actually took place in 5246 BC!
There are no less than 8 stars in the constellation of Taurus that host planetary systems. One of these is bright enough to see easily with the naked eye, Epsilon Tauri, with a magnitude of 3.53. The only planet found orbiting the star so far is a massive gas giant 7 times larger than Jupiter. But where there's one planet, there's sure to be more that we just haven't been able to detect yet.