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In The Hyades

And now for something completely different: a star not much like the Sun, nor observed to have planets orbiting it, but rather a hot, bright star in the middle of a large cluster of stars. The Hyades are a group of stars in the constellation Taurus, the Bull, seen during classical times as the bull's head. The center of the cluster is a V-shaped group of stars, readily visible from dark skies; the Hyades actually contain far more stars than this, as many as several hundred, though the dimmest members are visible only with binoculars or a telescope.

Our vantage point here will be the star Theta 1 Tauri, which is roughly in the middle of the Hyades star cluster. Theta 1 Tauri is a red giant, a star that was at one time like the Sun, but has now reached stellar "old age". Red giants form when a star begins to run out of hydrogen -- a normal star's main energy source -- which leads to an expansion, cooling, and an increase in total luminosity. Theta 1 Tauri, as seen from Earth, is one of roughly a dozen fairly conspicuous naked eye stars in the Hyades; by contrast, as seen from the Hyades, the Sun would be so dim that it could not be seen without a telescope.

Renditions from the Hyades

  1. Looking towards Polaris, the North Star, which is so far away that it moves only slightly on the 150-light-year travel to the Hyades. There are many more bright stars visible here than from Earth -- many are nearby cluster members. Polaris forms part of an L-shaped "constellation" whose brightest members are brighter than Sirius, the brightest star as seen from Earth.

  2. Back towards the Sun. Unfortunately the Sun is so dim, as seen from the Hyades, that it doesn't show up in this view (it would be near the top center of the image). On the other hand, there are lots of bright stars here, which more than makes up for not being able to see home easily.

  3. Back towards the Sun, with text. Most, if not all, the stars labeled with green labels are Hyades members. This includes essentially all of the brightest stars, including several that are so close and bright they rival the brightness of Venus as seen from Earth!

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