Aldebaran and the Clusters

Followers are generally deemed less important than leaders but, as important as the Pleiades are, their "follower" Aldebaran gives even greater emphasis and dignity to the pretty cluster. The converse is also true and about this, Martha E. Martin has written memorably in The Friendly Stars. She says that "Aldebaran shoots its ruddy face above the horizon just an hour after the hazy little dipper of the Pleiades has appeared, and the star is then to the east of, and, hence, almost directly under the Pleiades." Martin also remarks, "In his section of the sky Aldebaran reigns throughout all the lovely autumn evenings, with beautiful Capella in her own realm to the north of him and Fomalhaut far to the south . . ."

Aldebaran shines directly in front of the Hyades cluster and is a little less than 14° from the center of the Pleiades. These three entities—the star Aldebaran, cluster Hyades, and cluster Pleiades—are at significantly different distances from us in space. Aldebaran lies 65 light-years from us; the Hyades, about 150 light-years; and the Pleiades, maybe 390 light-years. So the Hyades cluster is about 2V3 times farther than Aldebaran and the Pleiades cluster about 2% farther than the Hyades.

The brightest Hyads shine at about apparent magnitude 31/2 and have an absolute magnitude of 1 or 0 (a little less luminous than Aldebaran). As Burnham notes, there are four yellow giant stars of luminosity class III in the Hyades (Epsilon, Gamma, Delta, and Theta-1 Tauri) with the rest that we can see main sequence stars (luminosity class V) of spectral types A, F, G, K, and M. There are no hot young B stars in the Hyades, as there are in the Pleiades. The Hyades are maybe about 400 million years old, much older than the Pleiades.

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