The Pleiades

The Pleiades (sometimes called the "Seven Sisters") is a famous open star cluster that is visible from almost all populated areas of Earth. It is also known as M45. People fairly often mistake it for the Little Dipper (as it does in fact look like a miniature dipper). The cluster located in the constellation Taurus (just north of another famous cluster, the Hyades). The Pleiades are visible even with some fairly significant light pollution. I remember seeing the Pleiades as a young boy. Back in the mid 1970s (under very dark skies compared to today and with much younger eyes) I was able to see 14 stars in this cluster with the naked eye!

The image below shows what the Pleiades looks like from the country (with the naked eye) from mid-northern latitudes. You can see the horizon along the bottom of the image. The very bright "star" in this image is Jupiter. This image was taken from Lake Henshaw in southern CA on 08 December 2012. This inset in this image shows a magnified version of the Pleiades, similar to what binoculars might show:

Below is a much closer view of the Pleiades. This is a 9 hour and 8 minute total exposure of the Pleiades (the image is actually the stack of 137 four minute exposures). It was taken through a 4" refractor using an SBIG STF-8300C camera. The haze that is visible is dust in space that is reflecting light from stars in the cluster! Note: No backyard telescope will show the Pleiades like this when looking through the eyepiece. The camera can record things that are far beyong the capability of the human eye. This image (through a 4" telescope) reveals stars that would just be visible (using the eye) when looking through a scope like the 200" Palomar telescope!

Below is a larger image (full HD resolution) for those who want a closer look. Although they are small (and maybe not visible unless you know what to look for) this image shows at least 2 dozen very distant and faint background galaxies. The faintest stars visible in ths image are about 370,000 times fainter than the naked eye can see!

"Back" links, e-mail and Copyright

Use your browser's "back" button, or use links below if you arrived here via some other path:

This page is part of the site Amateur Astronomer's Notebook
E-mail to Joe Roberts
Images and HTML text © Copyright 2012 by Joe Roberts. Please request permission to use photos for purposes other than "personal use".