The constellation Taurus is hard to miss as he charges through the northern winter sky. "The bull" is one of the most noticeable constellations and one of the oldest documented constellations, with descriptions of Taurus going as far back as the early Bronze Age. Taurus is most famous for its red giant star, Aldebaran, as well as a star cluster known as the Pleiades.
Locating Taurus, the bull
In the Northern Hemisphere, the bull passes through the sky from November to March, but the constellation's at its most visible in January. Taurus covers 797 square degrees.
- Right ascension: 4 hours
- Declination: 15 degrees
- Best visible between latitudes 90 degrees and minus 65 degrees
The red giant star Aldebaran is 65 light-years from Earth. It is the brightest star in the constellation and the 14th brightest star in the sky, according to EarthSky.org. Aldebaran also forms part of a V-shaped asterism, or group of stars, that is called the Hyades; this shape makes up the bull's face. Orange-hued Aldebaran is often described as glaring at Orion,the hunter, a constellation that lies just to the star's southwest. The planetary probe Pioneer 10 is moving in the general direction of that star, expected to make its closest pass by Aldebaran in roughly 2 million years, according to NASA.
In addition to the Hyades, the constellation's other major star cluster is the Pleiades, which consists of seven stars that rest on the bull's shoulder. It is said that these stars represent the Seven Sisters, daughters of Atlas and Pleione from Greek mythology. NASA's Kepler space telescope examined the Pleiades. In results released in 2017, astronomers found that six of the seven stars are variable B stars that change brightness over the course of a day. The Pleiades are visible to the naked eye, although the number of stars seen varies depending on your eyesight and the local conditions.
In the northwest part of Taurus is the supernova remnant Messier 1, commonly referred to as the Crab Nebula. It is located above the tip of the bull's bottom horn. In 2018, NASA released a video tour of this nebula based on data from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope.
When Zeus fell in love with the Phoenician Princess Europa, he transformed himself into a white bull with golden horns named Taurus and carried Europa away to Crete.
Taurus, located between the constellations Aries and Gemini, is referenced in astrology, which is not a science. Taurus is the second sign in the zodiac and represents those born from April 20 to May 20.
This article was updated on Nov. 8, 2018 by Space.com Contributor, Elizabeth Howell.