Stargazing with Pat J: January 2023


What does a hunter, a bull, two dogs, a rabbit, twins, seven beautiful women, and a Japanese auto manufacturer have in common?

Most people can locate the winter constellation Orion by searching the southern skies for the three bright stars that form his belt. But did you know this legendary hunter from Greek Mythology has plenty of company in the night sky?

Orion is chasing Taurus the bull. Like any self-respecting hunter, he has two dogs: Sirius in Canis Major, his main hound, and a pup named Procyon in Canis Minor. Sirius would much rather pursue a rabbit named Lepus, who is crouched at Orion’s feet, while young Procyon is playing fetch with the Gemini twins Castor and Pollux.

So where are the seven beautiful ladies you ask? Well, they are the Pleiades sisters, and they are in danger of being trampled by the charging bull. Orion is trying to save them in the hope of winning their affection.

While only six stars are easily visible to the naked eye, the Pleiades are an open cluster of more than 800 stars that were born about 100 million years ago from a gigantic cloud of gas and dust. The blue stars in the formation are among the largest and brightest in the galaxy. They are extremely hot and will burn out after only a few hundred million years: a much shorter life span than the billions of years our smaller, cooler Sun will enjoy.

In Japan, this group of stars is known as Subaru, thus it comes as no surprise that a stylized version of the Pleiades was chosen by the auto company as its logo. Its six stars symbolize the unification of five companies into one.