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Pleiades Dec2008 | by Steve Roche - AstroPhoto
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Pleiades Dec2008

The Pleiades, also known as M45, the Seven Sisters, Seven Stars, SED, Matariki, Subaru, or Bitang Skora, is an open cluster in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters, and is certainly the most obvious to the naked eye, looking like a mini version of "The Plough". In western culture, the nine brightest stars of the Pleiades are named for the Seven Sisters of Greek mythology: Sterope, Merope, Electra, Maia, Taygete, Celaeno and Alcyone, along with their parents Atlas and Pleione.

The cluster is dominated by hot blue stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. Dust that forms a faint reflection nebulosity around the brightest stars was thought at first to be left over from the formation of the cluster, but is now known to be an unrelated dust cloud in the interstellar medium that the stars are currently passing through. It is estimated that the cluster will survive for about another 250 million years, after which it will disperse due to gravitational interactions with its galactic neighborhood. Research results, based on mid- and far- infrared observations made with the Gemini 8-meter Frederick C. Gillett Telescope at Gemini North and the space-based infrared observatories Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, suggest that rocky terrestrial planets, perhaps like Earth, Mars or Venus, appear to be forming or to have recently formed within this star cluster, the result of "monster collisions" of planets or planetary embryos.

A Stack of 300 x 60 Second exposures at ISO 1600, using a Canon 350D c/w Baader UHC-S Filter and a Megrex 90 at Prime Focus, piggybacked on a CGE11. Images captured on the evenings of the 27th and 28th December, 2008 from Cherrymount, Waterford, Ireland

  

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Taken on December 30, 2008