Check out the beautiful clusters in one of the world’s longest-recognized constellations

Astrology is baloney. Most of you reading this page know that (and I’m sorry to break it to the rest of you so harshly). Even so, I’ve been known to peek at horoscopes occasionally. I always felt an affinity to my purported sign, Gemini. The Twins. Light and carefree, curious and adaptable.

You can imagine the horror I felt when, as a young girl, I went to science camp at Brock University, and an astronomy student taught us that modern horoscopes have little to do with what actually occurs in the sky and that I was, in fact, born while the Sun was firmly in Taurus.

Taurus. The Bull. Stubborn and dogmatic, practical and bossy. It couldn’t be. Not that it matters because I don’t believe in these things – but to be associated with Taurus? I ignored the words of the student until this past spring, when I really started looking at the constellations.

Deep sky

Working my way through The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Explore the Universe program, I pointed my binoculars and telescope at Taurus. It’s gorgeous. It hosts the Hyades open cluster as well as the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant. Culturally, the history of Taurus is one of the longest of any constellation, with evidence of the Bull and its “Seven Sisters” – the beautiful, bluish Pleiades cluster – being depicted in a 16,500-year-old cave painting.

Both the Hyades and the Pleiades can be seen with the naked eye. Just look toward the east as the constellation rises; it moves southward as it drifts upward in the sky. Aldebaran, the Bull’s “eye,” is an orange giant star located in the centre of the constellation.

Taurus is a great starting spot for beginning astronomers. Luckily for us Canadians, it’s rising again in the evening autumn sky, visible around 10:30 p.m. on October 1st and 8:30 p.m. on Halloween, October 31st.

Solar System

The planets are relatively quiet again this month. As I mentioned in September, if you have a clear view of the southwest on October 9th, look for bright Venus two degrees away from the crescent Moon as the Sun sets. If you look a wee bit left of the pair at just the right time, you might see a little reddish flickering star. That’s Antares, the heart of Scorpius.

Jupiter and Saturn continue their nightly march through Capricornus, while Mercury starts to rise before the Sun each morning, with better views coming toward the end of the month.