Take a gander at the gibbous moon anytime tonight with a pair of binoculars and you may notice a nice compact group of stars hanging on to its upper left side. The Pleiades or Seven Sisters open cluster will be less than 0.5 degrees away in the sky from the Moon – that is less than a full moon disk! In fact for most of of North America the Moon will glide right through the bottom portion of the Pleiades in the early evening. The pair are located in the constellation Taurus, the Bull.
Start looking around 5 pm and you will notice that hour by hour thereafter the disk of the Moon will appear to slowly creep across the stellar members of this family of stars. Try and see if you can spot the Pleiades using just your eyes. It won’t be easy because of the glare from the near full Moon.
Try blocking the disk of the moon out using your thumb – that way the fainter stars will come into view better as your eyes adapt to the darker surrounding sky. Interesting to note is that while the moon is only around 360,000 km away from us, the Seven Sisters is a whopping 400 light years away.
Remember where in the sky you see the cluster tonight, and by tomorrow evening you will have a much better view of it – even with the naked eye – since the bright, blinding Moon will have moved away.
Posted in Stargazing, The Moon, stars | 279 Comments »