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The Constellation: Taurus, the Bull


The constellation of Taurus the bull has been identified with many cultures (Druid, Babyonian, Egyptian, Greek, etc). As far back at 15,000 BC, drawings on the walls in the caves of Lascaux depicted Taurus with the star cluster known as the Pleiades.

There are at least three stories about the constellation of Taurus the Bull in Greek mythology. In the first myth, Zeus tries to gain the favor of Europa, a legendary Phoenician princess, by assuming the form of a magnificent white bull and carries her out to sea. In illustrations of Greek mythology, only the bull’s front portion of the constellation is depicted which might be explained as Taurus partly submerged underwater. In the second Greek myth, Zeus hides Io, his girlfriend from his wife, Hera by changing Io into the form of a heifer (or bull). Greek mythographer Acusilaus portrays the bull Taurus as the same as from the myth of the Cretan Bull in one of The Twelve Labors of Hercules.

Can you find Taurus?

During the first couple of months of the year, Taurus can most easily be found by first locating the two brightest stars in Orion (a constellation which looks like a huge hour glass) and the two brightest stars in Canis Major and Canis Minor (the “dog” stars) that follow Orion. Then head west from the two brightest stars in Orion about the same distance as the separation between the two brightest stars in Orion. There you will find the brightest member in the constellation of Taurus, named Aldebaran, an orange-hued, giant star. Its name derives from al-dabarān, Arabic for “the follower”, probably from the fact that it follows the Pleiades (an open cluster of stars) during the night. Forming the profile of a Bull’s face is a V-shaped asterism of stars called the Hyades, one of the nearest open star clusters. Aldebaran is the bull’s bloodshot eye, which seems to glaring menacingly at the hunter Orion. In the northeastern quadrant of the Taurus constellation lies another open cluster, the Pleiades (M45), one of the best known and easily visible to the naked eye. The seven most prominent stars in this cluster are named the “Seven Sisters”. Astronomers estimate that the cluster has approximately 500-1,000 stars, all of which are around 100 million years old. One fun fact is that during November, the Taurid meteor shower appears to radiate from the general direction of this constellation.

Explore the Mythologies of Globe at Night Constellations