DSS image of Aldebaran
Overlaid DSS image of Aldebaran, 60' x 60' with north at top and west to the right

Aladin viewer for the region around Aldebaran
Hoku'ula, Alpha Tauri, α Tau, 87 Tau
Σ 4002, BD+16 629, HD 29139, HR 1457, WDS J04359+1631, SAO 94027, GSC 01266-01416, HIP 21421

Type  Star
Magnitude  0.86
Right Ascension  4h 35' 55.2"  (2000)
Declination  16° 30' 33" N
Constellation  Taurus
Classification  K5+III
Observing Notes

Andrew Cooper
Nov 27, 2023    Waikoloa, HI (map)
28cm f/10 SCT, NexStar 11" GyPSy @ 127x
Seeing: 6 Transparency: 6 Moon: 0%

Brilliant rich orange, no companion noted, outshone only by nearby Mars approaching opposition, at the eastern margin of The Hyades star cluster, a rich assemblage of stars spanning 5°

Captain William Henry Smyth
Dec 24, 1836    No. 6 The Crescent, Bedford, England (map)
150mm f/17.6 refractor by Tully 1827

A standard Greenwich star, with a telescopic companion, in the southern eye of Taurus. A 1, pale rose-tint; B 12, sky blue; a magnitude assigned on deliberate comparison, for I was surprised on readily seeing it with my 5-foot telescope of 3¾ in. aperture, but the Rev. W. R. Dawes has since shown me a diagram which he made of it in November, 1828, with a 3½-foot telescope, of 2¾ inches aperture, and a negative eyepiece magnifying 200 times. This wide object is 66 ♅ VI, and was thus first registered:
    Pos. 37°02'  Dist. 87".79  Ep. 1781.97
[WDS 31° 136".50 2016 ]
whence it is clear that the position has undergone no appreciable change, the large star having a minute retrograde proper motion. The distance may have increased, but such an inference cannot be drawn with certainty, as the difference very probably combines instrumental error with amount of proper motion.

Aldebaran is readily found by the eye, from being exactly between Bellatrix and the Pleiades. The stars in Orion's belt also point nearly in its direction; and it is moreover easily distinguished by its red colour. The rich appearance of its vicinity has been thus eulogized by the brackish poet:
In lustrous dignity aloft,
see alpha Tauri shine,
The splendid zone he decorates
attests the power divine:
For mark around what glitt'ring orbs
attract the wandering eye,
You'll soon confess no other star
has such attendants nigh.
It has a slight proper motion in space, of which the following amount has been estimated :
    P....  AR +0".04  Dec. -0".21
B.... +0".12 -0".15
A.... +0".08 -0".17
[Hipparcos +0".06345 -0".18894]
Taurus is now the second in the zodiacal march, though only 4000 years ago he led the celestial signs, and continued to be their leader for 2000 years. The principal star is Al-debarán, the hindmost, because he drives the Pleiades, whence the name of Stella dominatrix, and Táliyu-l-nejm, were also applied; but it was most popularly known among the Arabians, with whom it was no favourite, as 'aïn-al-thaur, the bull's eye, though it was placed at a little distance from the animal's head in the ancient configurations. (See Hyades.) Tycho considered it to be 125 times the size of our earth, while Ricciolus worked it up to 2810 times that magnitude; such unwarranted conclusions, however, are mere dreams; give us but the parallax, and the mass will soon follow. It is a red star, and I have repeatedly seen it apparently projected on the disc of the moon, even to an amount of nearly three seconds of time, at the instant of immersion, when occulted by that body, as related in the Memoirs of the Astronomical Society. This phenomenon seems to be owing to the greater proportionate refrangibility of the white lunar light, than that of the red light of the star, elevating her apparent disc at the time and point of contact.

All these suppositions, however, are purely arbitrary, as other stars are liable to a similar affection; and notwithstanding that the call of the Astronomical Society for observations of the occultations of Aldebaran for 1829 and 1830, was zealously responded to from various parts of Europe, nothing satisfactory was elicited. Of six observers at the Greenwich Observatory, five distinctly saw the projection on the lunar limb; and the majority of corresponding astronomers saw the star either projected or hanging on the moon's edge : but there were several practical men who saw nothing remarkable. The fact, however, of the singular phenomenon is admitted, but subject to much diversity of opinion as to its cause; for it cannot be traced either to the character of the telescope employed, of the observer, or of the weather during the observation. To those who have not the Memoirs of the Astronomical Society at hand, an extract from one of my reports may be illustrative :

"October 15th, 1829. I saw Aldebaran approach the bright limb of the Moon very steadily; but, from the haze, no alteration in the redness of its colour was perceptible. It kept the same steady line to about ¾ of a minute inside the lunar disc, where it remained, as precisely as I could estimate, two seconds and a quarter, when it suddenly vanished. In this there could be no mistake, because I clearly saw the bright line of the Moon outside the star, as did also Dr. Lee, who was with me. The emersion took place without anything remarkable: the dark limb not visible. Telescope 5-foot achromatic, 3¾ aperture, power 78; adjusted on the star." Dr. Lee was watching with a smaller instrument.

♅. measured the apparent diameter of this oculus Tauri as 1".50; and others have attempted a substantive measurement. Its ruddy aspect has long been noted, and old Leonard Digges, in his Prognostication Everlasting, 1555. pronounces that it is "ever a meate rodde." Indeed, all late observers agree in its redness; but Virgil wrote
Candidas auratis aperit quum cornibus annum
which golden horns must rather refer to β and ζ, the two bright stars on the tips, than to the "horns of triumph" of the Scholiast.

To account for this constellation's comprising only half the animal, the mythologists have it, that as he personates the bull which swam away with Europa, his flanks are immersed in the billows. This is very much like the Dutch effigies behind a tree; but it does not well explain why Taurus, Pegasus, or Equuleus, are deprived of their hinder parts. Ovid, indeed, throws a doubt upon the gender of this sign, by making it the transformation of lo,—but in either case it is still the munus amoris, in which the heathens delighted. The classical astronomers are, however, very weak in their mythological derivations and zodiacal origins. In the rare zodiac gold-muhrs struck by Jehángír Sháh in 1618, Taurus is represented as a complete though spiritless animal, with the gibbous hump common to Indian oxen: but on the silver rupees of the same monarch, the half animal is drawn in a bold butting attitude, exactly as described by Manilius. Yet Aratus must have seen that of Eudoxus differently placed, for lie puts the Pleiades in the knees. Some of the Romans represented the animal as whole; since both Vitruvius and Pliny speak of cauda Tauri as being formed by the Pleiades, to the derogation of those young ladies. But the Arabians retained it merely as a section, calling ο, or Flamsteed's No. 1, the first star in Al Khat, the slash, or section.

Taurus is one of the old 48 constellations, and contained the Fourth Mansion of the Moon. As one of the earthy triplicity, it was held to refer to the season for cultivating fields, in allusion to which the manuscript Almanac of 1386 says, that "whoso is born in yat syne schal have grace in bestis." Novidius recognised in Taurus the ox that stood with the ass by the manger, at the blessed Nativity: "but," saith Hood, " whether there were any oxe there, or no, I know not how he will prove it." It is a very rich asterism, and its components have been thus tabulated:
    Ptolemy  . . . 44 stars  Hevelius   . . . .  51 stars
UlughBeigh . . 43 Bullialdus . . . . 52
Tycho Brah . . 43 Flamsteed . . . 141
Bayer . . . . 48 Bode 394 . . . . . 394
― A Cycle of Celestial Objects Vol II, The Bedford Catalogue, William Henry Smyth, 1844
Other Data Sources for Aldebaran
Nearby objects for Aldebaran
5 objects found within 60'
89 Tauri HD 29496 IC 374
Sigma1 Tauri Sigma2 Tauri

Drawings, descriptions, and CCD photos are copyright Andrew Cooper unless otherwise noted, no usage without permission.

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