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Date: 1993 - 1999


Question:
I would like to find out more about the legend and the astronomical history of the Plejades. How far away are they? How many stars are there totally?


Replies:
I can tell you a little off the top of my head: Pleides is Greek for ? and are also known as the seven sisters (because there are 7 stars you can see on a good clear night) from a story in Greek mythology. Different cultures have different myths and legends about the constellations. Suburu is the Japanese name for the Pleides, and, indeed, if you look at the Suburu emblem on one of their cars you'll see seven stars!

John


In Greek mythology, the Pleiades were daughters of Atlas and the nymph Pleione, and were companions of the goddess Artemis. They were pursued, so one story goes, by the hunter Orion, and were changed into doves to escape him, and then were transformed into stars and placed in the sky. And now when we look up at the Pleiades we see the constellation Orion in eternal pursuit. There are only 6 stars in this cluster that are considered bright enough to see with the naked eye; this supposedly gave rise to the legends of the "lost sister" Merope (one says that s he hides out of shame because she alone of the Sisters married a mortal, Sisyphus). The other names are Electra, Taygeta, Celaeno, Maia, Alcyone, and Asterope. The stars themselves, which actually are hundreds in number, form an open cluster that is about 127 parsecs, or about 415 light-years, away. Most of them are very hot blue stars and are quite young (around 100 million years old) as compared with our Sun (about 4.5 billion years old).

RC Winther



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