Hyades star cluster is dominated by bright star of Aldebaran

First published in Opinion The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

JUPITER is now visible in the east soon after sunset, looking like a very bright, icy blue-white star. Look to the planet's lower right and you'll see a ‘V’ of stars on its side, looking like a ‘>’ symbol. This is the famous Hyades star cluster, a group of stars more than 150 light years from Earth.

Looking at it you'll see that the cluster is dominated by a very bright, orange red star. However, Aldebaran is not actually a member of the cluster, it just happens to lie along that line of sight. It's not even half as far away as the stars in the cluster behind it. If you sweep this busy area with binoculars you'll see dozens of peppercorn stars of all different brightnesses and colours.

If you are into folk music, you might have sung about the Hyades star cluster without knowing it. In the popular song Green Grow the Rushes O, the 'April Rainers' are the stars of the cluster, which are often associated with showery weather when seen in the spring sky.

Stuart Atkinson

Eddington Astronomical Society of Kendal

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