The Pleiades

An inconspicuous disc with some golden dots caused a sensation in Germany. The Nebra Sky Disc is the oldest document that people in today's Germany have dealt with the sky and its stars. Pictured on it are the Pleiades, which are the subject of this article.

Who or what are the Pleiades?

The seven sisters representing the Pleiades are found in the constellation of Taurus and are between 360 and 445 light years from Earth. Converted into kilometers, the distance of the Pleiades is between 3,405,863,079,763,042 km and 4,210,025,195,818,204.5 km.

The Siebengestirn consists of the daughters of Atlas and Pleione. According to Greek mythology, they are called Alcyone, Asterope, Elektra, Kelaino, Maia, Merope and Taygete.

The Pleiades as an animation with the stars surrounding the seven stars.
The Pleiades in detail

The Nebra Sky Disc

Our ancestors already knew this star and immortalized it in gold on a copper disc about 3,700 to 4,100 years ago. In addition, the full moon and the waxing moon were applied in gold. In a second phase, our ancestors still have the horizon arcs for sunrise and sunset.

Wikipedia explains the second phase as follows:

The horizon arcs added later each sweep over an angle of 82 degrees, as well as sunrise and sunset between winter and summer solstice on the horizon at the latitude of the site. If the disc was positioned horizontally on the Mittelberg in such a way that the imaginary line from the upper end of the left arc to the lower end of the right curve points to the top of the Brocken about 85 km away, the disk could be used as a calendar to track the solar year. Seen from Mittelberg, the sun sets behind the Brocken at the summer solstice. The assumption that the right arch is the western one, marking the sunset, is supported by its proximity to the inclined crescent moon, which in the constellation mentioned is illuminated by the setting sun. Whether the disk was used in this state as an instrument for determining the solstices, or whether it merely represents the knowledge of these determinations, is uncertain.

Photographing the Pleiades

The year 2020 is under the motto astrophotography. The Pleiades have been part of astronomical observations for more than 4,000 years, so what could be more obvious than photographing the Seven Stars.

During my winter holiday in the beautiful Stubaital I succeeded. Orion was clearly visible in the southern night sky and I set out to record a time-lapse. While evaluating the images, I looked for known stars and became aware of a small group, which I first identified as a small car. On closer inspection, it could not be exactly the constellation and I pulled out my iPhone and opened the app Sky Guide . My suspicion that they are the Pleiades was confirmed.

For the Android users I have received two app recommendations from the community. On the one hand Sky View was recommended, on the other hand the app Sky Portal was recommended to me. Feel free to test both apps and let me know what you use to explore the sky.

How did the Pleiades make it onto the sensor?

As I have already written, it was more of a coincidence that I was able to catch the seven sisters by chance. I put the camera on a tripod and equipped it with my 14mm wide angle. After I also set the focus on "infinity" with the moon, it was time to set ISO and time.

The night sky with the Pleiades
In addition to Orion, Sirius and the moon, the seven stars, i.e. the Pleiades, can also be seen in this image.

The moon, more precisely the waxing moon, shone from the open sky and was reflected by the snow. Due to the low light smog I was able to work with the following EXIF data:

  • ISO 1,600
  • 5 sec Exposure time
  • Focal length 14mm
  • Aperture f/2.8

Fancy a star map?

I tried to create a star map using two pictures as examples. On the first very much you a shot in which I caught the Pleiades. Just click on the image to enlarge.

In addition to the Pleiades (1), Orion (2), Rigel (3), the constellation Taurus (4), the Hyades (5), the constellation Aries (6), Betelgeuse (7) and Uranus (8) are well recognizable. The moon is so big that I was able to label the Earth's satellite with its full name.
In addition to the Pleiades (1), Orion (2), Rigel (3), the constellation Taurus (4), the Hyades (5), the constellation Aries (6), Betelgeuse (7) and Uranus (8) are well recognizable. The moon is so big that I was able to label the Earth's satellite with its full name.

In the second picture I have marked the winter hexagon for you. This structure can only be seen in this position in winter and it is composed of seven stars (sounds strange, but that's how it is 😉 ). Again, I have marked the stars, connected them by lines and in the text to the picture the inclined readership finds the names of the stars.

In this picture I have marked the winter hexagon for you. It consists of Rigel (1), Sirius (2), Procyon (3), Polux (4), Castor (5), Kapella (6) and Aldebaran (7).
In this picture I have marked the winter hexagon for you. It consists of Rigel (1), Sirius (2), Procyon (3), Polux (4), Castor (5), Kapella (6) and Aldebaran (7).

What happens next?

I took the shots for Timelapse and I captured the night sky rather unconsciously. Now I will put the recordings together little by little and then show you these films.

If you liked the article, please spread the word and give others the chance to read my texts. Thank you 🙂

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