The Hyades is a very large loose naked eye open cluster located in the constellation of Taurus. It spans 5.5 degrees of sky, which is equivalent to 11 times the diameter of the full Moon. At a distance of 153 light-years this is the nearest open cluster - the Ursa Major Moving Group is closer, but's extremely scattered and more of a cluster like object than a true cluster. Consequently, the Hyades is one of the top studied open clusters of all.

The Hyades is easily found as it circles the brightest star in Taurus, first magnitude orange giant star Aldebaran (α Tau - mag. +0.87). It's not unreasonable to assume that Aldebaran is also a member of the Hyades. However, it's purely a foreground star, an interloper located only 65 light-years distant that happens to be in the same line of sight. As a naked-eye object, the Hyades have been known since prehistoric times.

The cluster is best seen from northern latitudes during the months of November, December and January.

C41 - The Hyades Open Cluster (credit:- Todd Vance)

Finder Chart for C41 - The Hyades (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for C41 - The Hyades - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

To the naked eye, at least 20 stars can be seen arranged in a "V" construction with the number rising to above 100 with good quality binoculars. This package of stars displays many nice colours, including several fine double stars. Due to its large apparent size, this is a perfect binocular cluster. The brightest component stars are theta2 Tauri (θ2 Tau - mag. +3.4), epsilon Tauri (ε Tau - mag. +3.5), gamma Tauri (γ - mag. +3.7), delta1 Tauri (δ1 Tau - mag. +3.8) and theta1 Tauri (θ1 Tau - mag. +3.8). In total, it contains at least 200 stars and is estimated to be 625 million years old.

Located 12 degrees northwest of the Hyades is M45, the brilliant Pleiades open cluster.

C41 Data Table

Object TypeOpen Cluster
Distance (light-years)153
Apparent Mag.+0.5
RA (J2000)04h 26m 54s
DEC (J2000)+15h 52m 00s
Apparent Size (arc mins)330 x 330
Radius (light-years)7.5
Age (years)625 Million
Number of Stars>200
Other NamesCollinder 50, Melotte 25
Notable FeatureNearest open cluster to the Solar System

Sky Highlights - February 2017

Comet Encke (2P/Encke) now visible in the western sky during evening twilight
Now is the last good chance to see comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova before it dramatically fades

Mars passes less than 1 degree north of Uranus on February 27th

Minor Planet
Vesta now visible with binoculars and small telescopes.

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for February 2017

Northern Hemisphere
Southwest:- Venus (mag. -4.8), Mars (mag. +1.1 to +1.3), Uranus (mag. +5.9)
East:- Jupiter (mag. -2.1 to -2.3)
South:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.6)

Southern Hemisphere
West:- Venus, Mars, Uranus
East:- Jupiter
North:- Jupiter
East:- Saturn, Mercury (mag. -0.2 - first half of month)

Deep Sky
Naked eye / binoculars:-
Messier 45 - M45 - The Pleiades (Open Cluster)
The Hyades - Open Cluster
Messier 44 - M44 - The Praesepe (Open Cluster)
Messier 35 - M35 - Open Cluster
Messier 42 - M42 - The Great Orion Nebula (Emission/Reflection)

Small telescopes:-
Messier 36 - M36 - Open Cluster
Messier 37 - M37 - Open Cluster
Messier 38 - M38 - Open Cluster

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