Pleiades, The Teenage Sisters
This image captures the sister stars all decked out in blue gowns – the effect of a cloud of gas and dust the family is moving through.
Credit: NASA, ESA and AURA/Caltech
How many were in your family as you grew up? Over the years, did some move away to live on their own?
The Pleiades represents a huge family of young stars. They were born, like most stars are, from a cloud of gas and dust in our galaxy.
In ancient Greek stories, two of Pleiades were the parents and rest were their children – now all teenage sisters. When you look up at the Pleiades, you may only see only five or six stars. Binoculars reveal over a hundred more. Large telescopes have found over 3,000 stars in the Pleiades family.
Born while the dinosaurs were roaming the Earth, the Pleiades family has been together about 100 million years. Within 250 million years from now, they will all have moved away from their natal home to go out on their own.
After our Sun was born a few billion years ago, it was likely part of a large family of stars like the Pleiades. Imagine if the Sun were one of the stars in the middle of the Pleiades. Our night sky would be ablaze with thousands of stars all relatively close to us – within about six or seven light years. Today, the Sun has only a couple of other stars that close. We have long since moved away from our original family of sister stars.
If it's clear outside, you can see the Pleiades tonight. (The diagram on the right shows you where to look - next to the constellation Taurus.) Use binoculars for a better view. To see them through a telescope, click here to locate your nearest astronomy club.
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(Photo Credit: Adirondack Public Observatory)
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