Constellation of the Month (December 2008) – Taurus, by Steve Southern

Diagram: The constellation of Taurus the bull (showing M1 and M45)

Avoiding the obvious Orion, December’s constellation of the month is the wonderful Taurus, the bull. Click for printable map


Taurus is one of the oldest zodiacal constellations. According to myth, Taurus represents the bull form taken on by Jupiter or Zeus in pursuit of the fair maidens of the seven sisters (Pleiades). There are several stories about this constellation and the lusty ancient gods!

Objects in Taurus

Taurus lies adjacent to Orion and will be seen in the South during December.
Most famous object in Taurus is the lovely Pleiades open star cluster (also known as M45). This a beautiful naked eye open cluster object. Use binoculars for really good views.
For more information click on the link;

Other delights are the Crab Nebulae which is the remnants of a supernova explosion that the Chinese and Arab astronomers recorded around 1054AD. This is also known as M1 and is about 6,500 light years away.
Click below for more information and images of M1, the Crab Nebulae.

Also, look for the “V” shape of Hyades open cluster which is the closest star cluster to Earth. This can be found near the bright star Aldebaran. There is another mythical story about the Hyades being the daughters of Atlas.
Aldebaran, (Tau alpha) is a huge red giant star many times larger than our own sun and represents the eye of the bull. See the diagram below.

Albebaran's diameter is 44.2 times that of the Sun. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Albebaran’s diameter is 44.2 times that of the Sun.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
(click image to enlarge)

Click the link below for a full sky photograph of Taurus.