WPBT2's Star Gazers

Episode #13-06 "Two Clusters Get Some Company"
Air Dates Febtuary 11, 2013 - February 17, 2013

DEAN: Hey there Star Gazers. I'm Dean Regas, astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory.

JAMES: And I'm James Albury, director of the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium in Gainesville, Florida. Fellow Star Gazer, Marlene Hidalgo, will join us to help you find your way around the sky. Quick Dean! What are the names of the seven sisters?

DEAN: Uh, there's Alcyone, Maia, Merope, Sterope, Taygete, Celaeno, and… who am I forgetting?…oh, Electra!

JAMES: Nice job. These are the names of the seven daughters of Atlas...

DEAN: …And are also stars in the brightest cluster in the sky. Known as the Pleiades, the seven sisters make a great sight in the evening.

JAMES: Plus their cousins, the Hyades aren’t too far away. They'll have some visitors from our solar system next week.

DEAN: Let's show you.


JAMES: Okay we have our sky set to Friday February 15 at 8 p.m. facing southwest. The waxing crescent moon will be high in the sky next to the three stars of Aries the Ram.

DEAN: Aries can be tough to picture, but the moon can help point the way on Friday. Now, let's shift the date forward one day at a time. We'll still be looking at 8 p.m., but here's the view on the 16th… and now the 17th.

JAMES: On the 17th at 8 p.m., the moon is so high in the sky you should lay back and take in the scene.

DEAN: Let's take the hoverboards in for a closer look.


DEAN: On Sunday night the moon appears near a planet and our two star clusters.

JAMES: The planet is easy to find because it's so bright. That's giant Jupiter - a planet 88,000 miles wide -- so large that 11 earths would fit across its diameter. Jupiter shines with reflected sunlight.

DEAN: That's right. The sunlight travels over 470 million miles to reach Jupiter and
Then bounces another 450 million miles to reach your eyes! That’s a lot of frequent flier miles!


JAMES: Now back to the clusters. The moon will be between the Pleiades (on the right) and the Hyades (on the left) the night of the 17th. The Hyades are much fainter, even though they're a lot closer. At around 150 light years, the stars in the Hyades formed at the same time from a huge nebula of gas and dust.

DEAN: You can see some of the brighter Hyades with the naked eye and lots more with a pair of binoculars. This is also where you can find the constellation Taurus the Bull. The Hyades along with the bright orange star, Aldebaran mark his face.

JAMES: But let's get to the seven sisters. Marlene, take us in for the extreme close up.


MARLENE: I know they're called the seven sisters, but the Pleiades star cluster really consists of hundreds of stars. The seven brightest look like a dinky dipper and are visible to the naked eye, but zoomed in we can see a lot more. Let's label the sisters dean named earlier. The brightest is called Alcyone. Forming the rest of the bowl is Merope, Electra, and Maia. The fainter sisters are Sterope on the top, Taygete and then Celaeno. But what are the two brighter stars making the handle of this dinky dipper? Those stars bear the names of the parents, Atlas and Pleione. So when you're straining to see the seven sisters with the naked eye, sometimes you can see a parent or two and miss a dimmer sister. This cluster was also formed from a nebula and is about 400 light years away from us. These blue stars are way bigger and hotter than the Hyades. Alcyone, for instance would be 10 times wider than our sun and shine 2400 times brighter! That's a hot sister!


JAMES: On February 18th the moon moves over to the other side of Jupiter and away from the clusters. Here it is on the 19th… and the 20th… Jupiter will still hang out in the area for the next two months so he can guide your way to the clusters.

DEAN: Or you can use nearby Orion to help. He's over to the left with his trademark belt of three stars. Connect the dots of the three stars and keep going to the right. This line of sight will take you to the Hyades and then on to the Pleiades.

JAMES: So, there's a lot to see high in the southwestern sky.

DEAN: Really high in the sky. Get out a lawn chair or kick back and…

BOTH: Keep looking up!


Episode #13-06 "Two Clusters Get Some Company"
Air Dates Febtuary 11, 2013 - February 17, 2013

DEAN: Two star clusters are visible to the naked eye this week.

JAMES: And the moon and Jupiter will pay them a visit.


JAMES: We have our sky set to Friday February 15 at 8 p.m. facing southwest where you'll find the waxing crescent moon.

DEAN: Same time on the 16th, the moon is here… and on the 17th the moon nestles in between two star clusters.

JAMES: A cluster called the Hyades will be to the left of the moon. These stars are spots on the face of Taurus the Bull and are all about 150 light years away.

DEAN: Nearby is bright Jupiter. Wow, he's bright! And to the right of the moon, on the
Bull's back are the Pleiades or the seven sisters star cluster. To the naked eye you can make out individual stars -- if you have good eyesight. For being 400 light years away, these must be big, bright stars.

JAMES: Now, all this is happening high in the sky, so kick back and…

BOTH: Keep looking up!


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