Messier 45

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Aladin viewer for the region around Messier 45
Pleiades, Seven Sisters, Subaru, Hen with Chicks, Soraya, Makaliʻi
Bode 8, Melotte 22, Mel 22, Collinder 42, Cr 42, Lund 117, C 0344+239, OCL 421.0

Type  Open Cluster
Magnitude  1.6
Size  110'
Right Ascension  3h 47' 29"  (2000)
Declination  24° 6' 19" N
Constellation  Taurus
Observing Notes

Andrew Cooper
Aug 21, 2017    Grants Spring, OR (map)
76mm f/6 APO, TeleVue-76 @ 30x
Seeing: 7 Transparency: 7 Moon: 0%

A stunning unaided eye object as it rises above the tops of the trees, with the 'scope it becomes a beautiful collection of blue stars filling the field, large, very bright, fully resolved, coarse, seven bright stars (mags 3-4) dominate a cluster that trails off in magnitude to members just on the edge of visibility, around a hundred stars visible, the Merope nebula NGC1435 is clearly visible at the south margin of the cluster

Andrew Cooper
Aug 8, 2013    Indian Springs, Oregon Star Party (map)
Regalo de Estrella 6" f/5.4 @ 26x
Seeing: 7 Transparency: 6 Moon: 0%

Beautiful! The field is filled with brilliant stars, ten brighter members puntuate a field of dozens, the UHC helps reveal a mottling of nebula around many of the main stars

Andrew Cooper
Oct 21, 2006    TIMPA, Avra Valley, AZ (map)
12x36 Canon Image Stabilized Binoculars

Visible to unaided eye, with binos it is a beautiful cluster that frames nicely in the field, six brighter blue stars dominate a cluster of around 100 members of decreasing magnitude

Andrew Cooper
Aug 28, 2005    TIMPA, Avra Valley, AZ (map)
9x63 Binoculars

Beautiful object!, a bright cluster dominated by a handful of bright blue-white stars, just a perfect size for the binocular field.

Andrew Cooper
Aug 28, 2005    TIMPA, Avra Valley, AZ (map)
46cm f/4.5 Deep Violet

Large! Bright!! fills the low power field and then some with very bright stars, coarse and not rich, the sister stars themselves obviously blue-white, conditions not good enough to see any nebulosity tonight.

Rev. T.W. Webb
May 19, 1885    Hardwick, Herefordshire, England (map)

The 6 principal stars of the Pleiades are evident to any clear sight; but glimpses of more are easily obtainable. Möstlin is said by Kepler to have distinctly made out 14, the relative positions for 11 being estimated with surprising accuracy in the absence of a telescope. Carrington and Denning have seen 14; even 16 are spoken of by Carl von Littrow, who says 11 are not infrequently perceived. A beautiful triangle of small stars will be found near the Lucida, Alcyone. I have noticed the remarkable absence of color in the group, except in one minute Ruby star, and an orange outlier. Wolf has charted 499 stars here down to 14 mg. The photographic plate shows over 2000.
― Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes, T. W. Webb, 1917

Captain William Henry Smyth
Dec 21, 1836    No. 6 The Crescent, Bedford, England (map)
150mm f/17.6 refractor by Tully 1827

[This description of the Pleiades is found under the entry for η Tau or Alcyone in The Bedford Cycle]

The Pleiades constitute a celebrated group of stars, or miniature constellation, on the shoulder of Taurus; their popular influences have been said and sung for many ages. Hesiod mentions them as the Seven Virgins, "of Atlas born;" and in the ancient MS. of Cicero's Aratus, in the British Museum, they are finely represented by female heads, inscribed Merope, Alcyone, Celaeno, Electra, Taygeta, Asterope, and Maia, under the general title Athlantides, while the illustrations to Julius Firmicus in 1497, represent them as well-grown women. The moral may be, that Atlas himself first rigidly observed these stars, and named them after his daughters. But various are the appellations under which they have been known. Theon likened them to a bunch of grapes; Aratus says they were called επταοροι; Manilius clusters them as glomerabile sidus; the Arabs said they were Ath-thurayya, or the little ones; the French designate them poussinière; the Germans, gluckhenne; the Italians knew them as le gallinelle; the Spaniards term them the cabrillas, or little nanny-goats, which is the key of the Duke's query to Sancho; and several schools called them the brood-hen, under the representation of a hen and chickens. There has also been much discussion ,as to the number of the individuals in the group, some of the ancients having advanced that there were seven, and others resolving to count only six, in the spirit of Ovid's oft-cited
Quse septem dici, sex tamen esse solent.
The "lost Pleiad" is, however, rather a poetical than an exact expression, for in moonless nights I never had any difficulty in counting seven stars in the so-called Hexastron, with the naked eye; and indeed this is nothing to boast of, for many people may enumerate even more, though few will equal Mœstlinus, the discoverer of the new star of 1604, who, as Kepler avers, could distinctly see fourteen stars in the Pleiades, without any glasses. Still, if we admit the influence of variability at long periods, the seven in number may have occasionally been more distinct; so that while Homer and Attalus speak of six of them, Hipparchus and Aratus may properly mention seven. But they have a singularly brilliant light for their magnitudes, whence the unassisted eye becomes dazzled. The ancients allotted to them only seven stars; but in modern catalogues, their numbers hare run thus:
    Kepler   . . . . 32 stars    Hook   . . . . .  78 stars
Galileo . . . . 36 Jeaurat . . . . 103
De la Hire . . . 64 F. de Rheita . . 188
And the zealous amateur may be assured, that there are yet many recruits for him who will undertake an exact chart of them, the which is still a desideratum, the cluster being directly in the Moon's path, and therefore the site of abundance of occultations. This part formerly constituted the third Lunar Mansion; and is so generally known, that its alineation need hardly be pointed out; yet it may be added, that an imaginary line through the wain of the Great Bear, passing Capella, leads to the Pleiades; or, from the southward, a line from Sirius, carried over Orion's belt, meets them.

An interest in the Pleiades is strongly excited by Job's beautiful allusion to God's power, in the ninth chapter of his book. We are held to deal largely in chronology when, by reducing the occasus matutinus of these stars—twenty-five days after the autumnal equinox—to this time, we find that 2480 years have elapsed since the days of Thales; but here we have recorded evidence of their being well noticed 3362 years ago! Look also to the thirty-eighth chapter, where, in convincing Job of ignorance and imbecility, the Omnipotent demands,
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
Knowest thou the ordinances of Heaven ? canst thou set the dominion thereof in
the earth?
Now this splendid passage, I am assured, is more correctly rendered thus:
Canst thou shut up the delightful teemings of Chimah?
Or the contractions of Chesil canst thou open?
Canst thou draw forth Mazzaroth in his season?
Or Aish and his sons canst thou guide?
In this very early description of the cardinal constellations, Chimah denotes Taurus, with the Pleiades; Chesil is Scorpio; Mazzaroth is Sirius, in the "chambers of the south;" and Aish the Greater Bear, the Hebrew word signifying a bier, which was shaped by the four well-known bright stars, while the three forming the tail were considered as the children attending a funeral. St. Augustin, in his annotations on the above passage, assures us that under the Pleiades and Orion, God comprehends all the rest of the stars, by a figure of speech, putting a part for the whole; and the argument is,—The all-powerful Deity regulates the seasons, and no mortal can intermeddle with them, or presume to scan the ordinances of Heaven.

This beautiful group of stars also attracted very early attention in Greece; and Hesiod, in the opening of the second book of Works and Days, has a truly astronomical passage upon the Pleiades, nearly 1000 years B.C. It is thus rendered by Cooke:
There is a time when forty days they lie,
And forty nights, conceal'd from human eye,
But in the course of the revolving year,
When the swain sharps the scythe, again appear.
Among the classical ancients the heliacal rising of the Seven Stars was esteemed the most favourable season for setting out on a voyage, though rain and storms were frequently then prevalent, whence Ideler thinks they merit the appellation of Schiffahris-gestirn. Some savans tell us, that from the custom of letting fly a pigeon on the occasion, for auspices, they were named the Pleiades, or doves: others say the designation is derived from πλειν, to sail; while another class insist that it is derived from πλεοs, full, from the genial bearings of the asterism. Thus etymologists dock and stretch words, and limbs of words, after a Procrustean fashion, to suit their own theories, a practice by which they fall into many a trap, even more fatal than that which assumed the Mount Sier of Ezekiel for Monsieur over-the-way. Of this system of convertible terms and changeable terminations, which form the etymological battery, a notable expose occurs in Townsend's scourging of Sir W. Drummond; from which we may instance the group in question, Succoth Benoth, or Pleiades, on the back of "Tur, Tor, Tau, whence is derived Turris, Toρσιs, Tαρσοs, Tυρσοs, Tαυροs, and Taurus" the Bull. By the way, Aldebaran was called Taliyu-n-nejm, as following or driving the Pleiades: can this have engendered the tally-ho of earthly chases? I have elsewhere remarked, what a capital hit a sharp wit might make between Almack's famous ball-room, and the beautiful double star Al'mak, which being on Andromeda's right foot may be assumed to symbolize dancing.

It may also be mentioned, that the night star to which Mahomet devotes the eighty-sixth chapter of the Koran, has been said to refer to the Pleiades; but I see no reason for restricting to any shining object, so vague an epithet as the "star of piercing brightness," which appeared by night. A more legitimate reason for supposing it to allude to this group rather than to al-tárik, the morning star, or al-thákib, Saturn the piercer, is the allusion to its bringing back the rain, in the Sura quoted: at least, so the commentator fancifully applies it.
― A Cycle of Celestial Objects Vol II, The Bedford Catalogue, William Henry Smyth, 1844

Charles Messier
Jan 4, 1769    

A cluster of stars, known by the name of the Pleiades. The position reported is that of the star Alcyone."
― Connaissance des Temps, 1781
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Messier 45