It’s looking to be a bright witching hour on Halloween this year. Grab your telescopes (or even your naked eye) and look up towards the sky on October 31st for a chance to see The Seven Sisters light up the sky. It’s an annual autumn tradition and the conditions are looking perfect for a view of the Pleiades. And that’s not all, the annual Taurid meteor shower will be hitting it’s peak as well on Halloween, making this spooky holiday the perfect night to go stargazing.
Meet the Seven Sisters, also known as the Pleiades. This open star cluster is one of the nearest star clusters to earth and because of that, the bright stars are easily seen without a telescope or binoculars. However, closest to earth still means the stars are on average 444 light years away. A bit of a long trip if you ask me.
You can find the star cluster by finding Orion’s belt and slowly making your way up to the Taurus constellation. Using an unaided eye you may see the stars from dusk to dawn.
The Pleiades cluster features hot blue luminescent stars. While the stars are beautiful to gaze at, it wasn’t always the case, in fact, in ancient times the stars were looked upon as sinister and strange. Their name comes from the Ancient Greek, most likely derived from the Greek word, “plein” meaning “to sail”. In Greek mythology, the name Pleiades depicts seven divine sisters who were daughters of Pleione.
In other cultures, like in Japan, the stars are named Subaru (doesn’t the logo make a lot more sense now?).
However it is named, the Pleiades star cluster consists of the following seven sister stars plus the addition of two parent stars, Atlas and Plein. Here are each of the stars according to mythology:
- Atlas – The father of Hyades and Pleiades and known as the originator of constellations.
- Plein – The mother, also known as Pleione. She is the sailing queen and her daughters are the sailing ones.
- Alcyone – Was seduced by Poseidon and is known to be the central one.
- Asterope – Was raped by Aries then gave birth to Oenomaus, the king of Pisa.
- Celaeno – Was also seduced by Poseidon. Was said to be struck by lightning.
- Electra – Was seduced by Zeus and gave birth to Dardanus, the founder of Troy.
- Maia – Was seduced by Zeus and gave birth to Hermes.
- Merope – Said to be the missing sister. She married a mortal man, Sisyphus and hides in the sky because of shame.
- Taygete – Was seduced by Zeus and gave birth to Lacedæmon, the founder of Sparta.
While looking up at the brightest stars, take a moment to adjust your eyes and look for some that may be falling. The annual Taurid meteor shower will be active on Halloween as well with about seven shooting stars an hour.