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Pleiades, The Seven Sisters

The Pleiades is among our nearest star clusters and is considered the most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky. The cluster is dominated by hot blue luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years.
The name of the Pleiades comes from Ancient Greek and probably derives from plein ‘to sail’ because of the cluster’s importance in delimiting the sailing season in the Mediterranean Sea. The season of navigation began with their heliacal rising (heliacal rising occurs annually when a planet or star cluster or single star first becomes visible above the eastern horizon at dawn, just before sunrise.)

The Pleiades are a prominent sight in winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and are easily visible out to mid-Southern latitudes. They have been known since antiquity to cultures all around the world, including the Celts (Welsh Tŵr Tewdws , Irish “Streoillín”), Hawaiians (who call them Makaliʻi), Māori (Matariki), Aboriginal Australians, the Persians, the Arabs, the Chinese, the Quechua, the Japanese, the Maya, the Aztec, the Sioux, the Kiowa, and the Cherokee. In Hinduism, the Pleiades are known as Krittika.

The Pleiades were well known to the ancient Greeks and many classical writings make mention of them including ‘The Odyssey’.
The ancient Babylonians named the Pleiades MUL while the ancient Egyptians are likely to have referred to the cluster as Ennead.

Galileo Galilei was the first astronomer to view the Pleiades through a telescope. He discovered that the cluster contains many stars too dim to be seen with the naked eye. He published his observations, including a sketch of the Pleiades showing 36 stars, in his treatise ‘Sidereus Nuncius’ in March 1610.

Where I live in New Zealand the Pleiades cluster is visible for most of the year, except for approximately one month in the middle of winter.

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