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The Pleiades

The Pleiades in Taurus The Pleiades in Taurus ©2018 Frederick Steiling

See the 27x12 foot presentation of this image as part of the TUPUNA→TRANSIT exhibition at the Musée de Tahiti et des Îles (Museum of Tahiti and her Islands) running 30 March 2019 to 20 September 2020.

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Target Information
Main Target Designations M45 (The Pleiades)
Companion Objects NGC1435 (Merope Nebula)
IC349 (Barnard's Merope nebula)
RA Center 03h 46m 36.961s
DEC Center +24° 06' 25.77"
Rotation 0.833° (N is up)
Pixel Scale (full resolution) 1.624 arcseconds/pixel
LRGB (top-right)
LRGB (bottom-right)
LRGB (top-left)
LRGB (bottom-left)
L-HDR (all frames)
5' per frame
L subframes (total) 49 x 900" @ 1x1
R/G/B subframes (total) 68/65/66 x 300" @ 1x1
L (HDR) subframes (total) 40 x 30" @ 1x1
Total Integration 29hrs 10min
Date(s) of acquisition 10Sep2016, 26Sep2016, 27Sep2016, 07Oct2016, 23Oct2016,
03Nov2016, 20Nov2016, 29Nov2016, 02Dec2016
Locations Whiteside, MO
Imager SBIG STF-8300M
Telescope/Lens Orion 8" f/3.9 Astrograph
Mount Celestron CGEM (DIY Hypertuned)
Guiding Apparatus OAG-8300
Guiding Camera QHY5L-II
Filter Wheel FW5-8300
Wide Filters Astronomik LRGB
Narrow Filters Astronomik 12nm Hα
Coma Corrector Baader MPCC Mark III
Collimator Howie Glatter 650nm laser
Focusing Moonlite CR with V2 High-res Stepper
Acquisition Sequence Generator Pro
Guiding PHD2
Processing PixInsight 1.8

This is the ubiquitous Pleiades cluster, an unconnected grouping of stars (an asterism) that travels the night sky in northern hemisphere winters / southern hemisphere summers.  Because of their prominent visibility to the naked eye, these stars garnered frequent special timekeeping and mythological treatment throughout many ancient cultures, including the Aborigines, Chinese, Maya, Aztec, and Native North Americans.  Representations in mythology differ throughout cultures, but these stars were almost universally associated in a female nature, and are commonly known to us as the "Seven Sisters".  The five brightest stars are visible by the naked eye even in the brightest of urban areas, and more or less than seven can be visible depending on sky darkness.  At different periods of the night from September to January, you can enjoy them yourself!

For one of the most familiar sights in the night sky, there is truly more than meets the (naked) eye.  Long exposure photographs reveal an incredible amount of colorful dust around these stars, as well as countless additional stars at varying distances throughout the field.  The spectacular dust, whose patterns are illuminated in light reflected from the asterism's stars, is just a happenstance, totally unassociated in a scientific nature with the asterism as the stars simply travel through it at a distance of about 400 light years from us.  Much of the dust takes a blue color from the hot young stars in the cluster, most believed to be less than 100 million years old.  Toward the south of the frame, the dust distances itself from the blue reflection and takes on a beautiful rust appearance.

The stars of the Pleiades very narrowly fit in my imaging field of view, and the densest of the dust structures would normally fall well off of the frame.  In order to adequately capture this large slice of the sky, I instead have captured 4 adjacent photos of this region and stitched them into the mosaic posted here.  The result is a field that spans over 2.25 degrees in the sky -- several full moons in width! In fact, the dust doesn't end there, as a massive network of clouds spans further throughout Taurus, making for countless photographic targets in this interesting area centered around one of our most recognizable naked-eye targets.

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