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List of stars in Taurus
Abbreviation Tau[1][2]
Genitive Tauri[1]
Pronunciation /ˈtɔrəs/ TOR-us, genitive /ˈtɔraɪ/ TOR-eye[1][3]
Symbolism the Bull[1]
Right ascension 4 h
Declination 15°
Family Zodiac
Quadrant NQ1
Area 797 sq. deg.
Main stars 7
Stars with planets 4 candidates[nb 1]
Stars brighter than 3.00m 4
Stars within 10.00 pc (32.62 ly) 3
Brightest star Aldebaran (α Tau) (0.85m)
Nearest star Gliese 176
(30.72 ly, 9.42 pc)
Messier objects 2
Meteor showers Taurids
Beta Taurids
Visible at latitudes between +90° and −65°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of January.

Taurus is one of the constellations of the zodiac. The name of the constellation is from the word "taurus" which is the Latin word for a "bull". The astrological symbol for the constellation is Taurus.svg (Unicode ♉), a stylized bull's head. Taurus is a large and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere's winter sky, between Aries to the west and Gemini to the east; to the north lie Perseus and Auriga, to the southeast Orion, to the south Eridanus, and to the southwest Cetus.


Notable features

The constellation Taurus as it can be seen by naked eye.

The brightest member of this constellation is Aldebaran, an orange-hued, spectral class K5 III giant star.[4] The name Aldebaran is Arabic (الدبران al-dabarān) and translates literally as "the follower".[5] Forming the profile of a Bull's face is a V or A-shaped asterism of stars. This outline is created by prominent members of the Hyades,[6] the nearest distinct open star cluster after the Ursa Major Moving Group.[7] In this profile, Aldebaran forms the bull's bloodshot eye, which has been described as "glaring menacingly at the hunter Orion",[8] a constellation that lies just to the southwest. The Hyades spans about 5° of the sky, so that it can only be viewed in its entirety with binoculars or the unaided eye.[9]

In the northeastern quadrant of the Taurus constellation lie the Pleiades, one of the best known open clusters, easily visible to the naked eye. The seven most prominent stars in this cluster are at least visual magnitude six, and so the cluster is also named the "Seven Sisters". However, many more stars are visible with even a modest telescope.[10] The name of the star Aldebaran most likely comes from the fact that it follows the Pleiades during the nightly motion of the celestial sphere across the sky.[5]

To the west, the two horns of the bull are formed by Beta (β) Tauri and Zeta (ζ) Tauri; two star systems that are separated by 8°. Beta is a white, spectral class B7 III giant star known as El Nath, which comes from the Arabic phrase "the butting", as in butting by the horns of the bull. It is the second brightest star in the constellation, and shares the border with the neighboring constellation of Auriga. Zeta Tauri is an eclipsing binary star that completes an orbit every 133 days.[4]

A degree to the northwest of ζ Tau is the Crab Nebula (M1), a supernova remnant. This expanding nebula was created by a Type II supernova explosion, which was seen on Earth, July 4, 1054. It was bright enough to be observed during the day, and is mentioned in Chinese historical texts. At its peak the supernova reached magnitude −4, but the nebula is currently magnitude 8.4 and requires a telescope to observe.[11][12]

The star Lambda (λ) Tauri is an eclipsing binary star. This system consists of a spectral class B3 star being orbited by a less massive class A4 star. The plane of their orbit lies almost along the line of sight to the Earth. Every 3.953 days the system decreases in brightness by 1.1 magnitudes as the brighter star is partially eclipsed by the dimmer star. The two stars are separated by only 0.1 astronomical units, so their shapes are modified by tidal interaction. This results in a variation of their net magnitude throughout each orbit.[13]

Located about 1.8° west of Epsilon (ε) Tauri is T Tauri, the prototype of a class of variable stars called T Tauri stars. This star undergoes erratic changes in luminosity, varying between magnitude 9 to 13 over a period of weeks or months.[14] This is a newly formed stellar object that is just emerging from its envelope of gas and dust, but has not yet become a main sequence star.[15] The surrounding reflection nebula NGC 1555 is illuminated by T Tauri, and thus is also variable in luminosity.[16]

This constellation includes part of the Taurus-Auriga complex, a star forming region of sparse, filamentary clouds. This spans a diameter of 30 parsecs and contains 3.5 × 104 solar masses of material, which is both larger and less massive than the Orion Nebula.[17] At a distance of 150 parsecs, this is one of the nearest active star forming regions.[18]

Taurus is best seen in the evening sky from November to March.[citation needed]

History and mythology

Taurus as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c.1825.

The identification of the constellation of Taurus with a bull is very old, certainly dating to the Chalcolithic, and perhaps even to the Upper Paleolithic. Michael Rappenglück of the University of Munich believes that Taurus is represented in a cave painting at the Hall of the Bulls in the caves at Lascaux (dated to roughly 15,000 BC), which he believes is accompanied by a depiction of the Pleiades.[19] However, his ideas have not been widely accepted.[20]

Taurus marked the point of vernal equinox in the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age (the "Age of Taurus"), from about 4,000 BCE to 1,700 BCE.[21] The Pleiades were closest to the Sun at vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC. In Babylonian astronomy, the constellation was listed in the MUL.APIN as GU4.AN.NA, "The Heavenly Bull".[22] As this constellation marked the vernal equinox, it was also the first constellation in the Babylonian zodiac and they described it as "The Bull in Front.[23] The Akkadian name was In Shũr.[24] Taurus also became an important object of worship among the Druids. Their Tauric religious festival was held while the Sun passed through the constellation.[21]

The same iconic representation of the Heavenly Bull was depicted in the Dendera zodiac, an Egyptian bas-relief carving in a ceiling that depicted the celestial hemisphere using a planisphere. In these ancient cultures, the orientation of the horns was portrayed as upward or backward. This differed from the later Greek depiction where the horns pointed forward.[25] To the Egyptians, the constellation Taurus was a sacred bull that was associated with the renewal of life in spring. About 4,000 years ago, the spring equinox entered Taurus. The constellation would become covered by the Sun in the western sky as spring began. This 'sacrifice' led to the renewal of the land.[26]

In Greek mythology, Taurus was identified with Zeus, who assumed the form of a magnificent white bull to abduct Europa, a legendary Phoenician princess. In illustrations, only the front portion of this constellation are depicted; in Greek mythology this was sometimes explained as Taurus being partly submerged as he carried Europa out to sea.[27] Greek mythographer Acusilaus marks the bull Taurus as the same that formed the myth of the Cretan Bull, one of The Twelve Labors of Heracles.[28]


As of 2008, the Sun appears in the constellation Taurus from May 13 to June 21.[29] In tropical astrology, the Sun is considered to be in the sign Taurus from April 21 to May 21,[30] and in sidereal astrology, from May 16 to June 15.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Stars with candidate extrasolar planets:


  1. ^ a b c d "The Constellations". IAU. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  2. ^ Russell, Henry Norris. "The New International Symbols for the Constellations". Popular Astronomy 30: 469. Bibcode1922PA.....30..469R. 
  3. ^ "Taurus". Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  4. ^ a b Burnham, Robert (1978). Burnham's Celestial Handbook: An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System. Three (revised ed.). Courier Dover Publications. pp. 1807–1830. ISBN 0486236730. 
  5. ^ a b Schaaf, Fred (2008). The Brightest Stars: Discovering the Universe Through the Sky's Most Brilliant Stars. John Wiley and Sons. p. 197. ISBN 0471704105. 
  6. ^ Olcott, William Tyler (1907). A Field Book of the Stars. New York and London: G.P. Putnam's sons. p. 96. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  7. ^ Inglis, Michael D. (2004). The Observer's Guide to the Northern Milky Way.. Springer. p. 184. ISBN 1852337095. 
  8. ^ Sasaki, Chris; Boddy, Joe (2003). Constellations: The Stars and Stories. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 106. ISBN 1402708009. 
  9. ^ Ridpath, Ian; Tirion, Wil (2003). Monthly Sky Guide (6th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 55. ISBN 0521533066. 
  10. ^ Marx, Siegfried; Pfau, Werner; Lamble, P. (1992). Astrophotography with the Schmidt telescope. Cambridge University Press. p. 80. ISBN 0521395496. 
  11. ^ Hawkins, Gerald S. (2002). Mindsteps to the cosmos. World Scientific. p. 231. ISBN 9812381236. 
  12. ^ Covington, Michael A. (2002). Celestial Objects for Modern Telescopes. Cambridge University Press. p. 240. ISBN 0521524199. 
  13. ^ Fekel, F. C., Jr.; Tomkin, J. (December 1, 1982). "Secondaries of eclipsing binaries. IV - The triple system Lambda Tauri". Astrophysical Journal, Part 1 263: 289–301. doi:10.1086/160503. 
  14. ^ Garfinkle, Robert A. (1997). Star-Hopping: Your Visa to Viewing the Universe. Cambridge University Press. pp. 66–67. ISBN 0521598893. 
  15. ^ Bertout, Claude (1989). "T Tauri stars - Wild as dust". Annual review of astronomy and astrophysics 27: 351–395. doi:10.1146/annurev.aa.27.090189.002031. 
  16. ^ "T Tauri in NGC 1555". National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 
  17. ^ Schulz, Norbert S. (2005). From dust to stars: studies of the formation and early evolution of stars. Springer Praxis Books, Astrophysics and Astronomy Series. p. 231. ISBN 3540237119. 
  18. ^ Babu, Gutti Jogesh; Feigelson, Eric D. (1996). Astrostatistics. CRC Press. p. 26. ISBN 0412983915. 
  19. ^ Sparavigna, Amelia (October 2008). The Pleiades: the celestial herd of ancient timekeepers. pp. 1–6. Bibcode2008arXiv0810.1592S. 
  20. ^ Whitehouse, David (August 9, 2000). "Ice Age star map discovered". BBC. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  21. ^ a b Noonan, George C. (2005). Classical Scientific Astrology. American Federation of Astr. pp. 66–67. ISBN 0866900497. 
  22. ^ Rogers, John H. (1998). "Origins of the ancient contellations: I. The Mesopotamian traditions". Journal of the British Astronomical Association 108: 9–28. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  23. ^ Wilson, Robert (1997). Astronomy through the ages: the story of the human attempt to understand the universe. CRC Press. p. 13. ISBN 0748407480. 
  24. ^ Allen, Richard Hinckley (1899 (1963)). Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning. Dover Publications. p. 382. ISBN 0-486-21079-0. 
  25. ^ Rogers, J. H.. Origins of the ancient constellations: I. The Mesopotamian traditions. 108. pp. 9–28. Bibcode1998JBAA..108....9R. 
  26. ^ Ptak, Roger (1998). Sky stories: ancient and modern. Nova Publishers. p. 22. ISBN 1560725079. 
  27. ^ Ridpath, Ian (1989). Star Tales. James Clarke & Co.. pp. 18–20. ISBN 0718826957. 
  28. ^ Palaephatus; Stern, Jacob (1996). On unbelievable tales. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. p. 47. ISBN 0865163200. 
  29. ^ Comins, Neil F.; Kaufmann, William J. (2008). Discovering the Universe: From the Stars to the Planets. Macmillan. p. 20. ISBN 1429230428. 
  30. ^ Sharp, Damian (2005). Learning astrology: an astrology book for beginners. Weiser. p. 17. ISBN 1578632986. 


  • Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion (2007). Stars and Planets Guide, Collins, London. ISBN 978-0007251209. Princeton University Press, Princeton. ISBN 978-0691135564.

External links

Coordinates: Sky map 04h 00m 00s, +15° 00′ 00″

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