Taurus – the bull

September 11, 2016


babalooeyThe constellation Taurus is one of the oldest and most famous of the sky-critters. There are indications that folks associated these stars with a bull all the way back to the copper age, which is really just the bronze age before the upgrade. But great starlore doesn’t typically happen all of a sudden because things take time to catch on. So the earliest sky-bull stories probably started in the late stone age, back when rocks served as both wrenches and screwdrivers.

Back when civilization was dawning on people, the sun was among the stars of the bull on the first day of spring, which was a big deal. That probably explains why it was popular to throw a bloody bull carcass on a holy bonfire on that day. This was before honey-bourbon BBQ sauce so, dry rub probably.
bullridersIn old-timey Mesopotamia, legend has it that Ishtar sent the bull to punish Gilgamesh for refusing a booty call. Gilly killed the bull of course, leading to more annual commemorative picnics.

Taurus is the only constellation crossed by all three of the great circles; the galactic equator, the celestial equator, and the solar ecliptic. What does this mean for us? (***shakes Magic 8 Ball***) “Answer hazy, try again later.”

The biggest tourist attraction in this region is the Pleiades. To the naked eye it’s six stars known as the seven sisters. Sister number seven is shy so you need to get up in the mountains away from the city to see her, or live before electricity. In telescopes you can see there are somewhere between 500 and 1000 sisters in the family. That makes for a long line at the bathroom. Take a good look now because they are all going to disband from the group and go wandering off about the galaxy in 250 million years. For most stars that amounts to leaving the nest at an early age.

The bright star Aldebaran “the follower” is an older gentleman who chases the Pleiades sisters across the sky. It is huge, orange, and shouldn’t be allowed to run for president or have access to Twitter. It is by far the brightest star in Taurus, and is considered the bull’s eye [insert archery joke here].

Aldebaran is a K5 star on the spectral type scale, a +1.44 on the B-V color scale, and a BAS (Big Ass Star).
T-tauri is an interesting star in Taurus which is the namesake for stars similar to itself. Astronomers often name a whole category of stars after the first one they study. In this case we’re talking about brand new baby stars. You see, when stars are first born, they have extra energy. It’s like when you bring home a baby from the hospital thinking they will be so cute but instead they’re all “WAA WAA WAA” every hour on the hour. New stars still have the leftover energy from the birthing process. It’s the commotion created by all that gas falling inward, i.e. gravitational energy. Eventually they use that all up and simmer down, relying only on the suckling nourishment of nuclear synthesis.

m001In Taurus you can see new stars being born, young stars leaving the nest, old stars going senile, and then there’s the Crab Nebula, the exploded guts of an overly massive and suicidal star. For mere mortals here on Earth, the Crab came into being on July 4, 1054. That was in the dark ages so people were desperate for anything interesting to talk about. It appeared so bright at first that people could easily see it in the daytime. Over a few weeks it cooled down but still lit up the night sky for several months. People back then didn’t know it was a supernova, they probably just said “whoa, will ya look at that” and of course killed some farm animals and fired up the briquettes.
The planet that most influences people born under the sign of Taurus is Earth.

Carpe Noctem.

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