On the evening of Sunday, November 26, skywatchers will have the opportunity to witness a celestial event as the moon comes into close proximity to the Pleiades star cluster, often referred to as the Seven Sisters. This rendezvous will occur in the constellation of Taurus.
From New York City, observers can expect the Pleiades to rise at 3:46 p.m. EST, closely followed by the nearly full moon, which will make its appearance at 3:48 p.m. EST. As the sun sets at 4:30 p.m. EST, the stage will be set for skywatchers to witness this captivating celestial encounter.
The moon’s close approach to the Pleiades will culminate at approximately 6:54 p.m. EST on the morning of Monday, November 27. During this time, the moon will have a magnitude of -12.7, significantly brighter than the Pleiades stars, which will have a magnitude of 1.3. This brightness difference means that the moon’s glare will make it challenging to spot some of the fainter stars in the cluster. Using binoculars may help reveal more details of the Pleiades, but the moon’s brilliance will still pose a challenge.
While the moon and the Pleiades will come close, they will maintain a sufficient distance from each other, preventing them from being seen together in the field of view of a telescope. However, binoculars will offer a wider field of view, allowing observers to appreciate both celestial objects simultaneously.
The Pleiades, located approximately 44 light-years away from Earth, is an open star cluster formed by stars that are believed to have originated from the same collapsing cloud of gas and dust. Despite its diminutive appearance in the night sky, the Pleiades holds significant historical and mythological importance. The name “Seven Sisters” originates from Greek mythology, where the stars were associated with the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. Zeus transformed these sisters into doves and then into stars, with each of the seven brightest stars bearing the name of one of the sisters. Two other stars in the Pleiades were named after their parents, Atlas and Pleione.
The Pleiades, also known as Messier 45 (M45), boasts a stellar population equivalent to approximately 800 suns and stretches across about 17.5 light-years. Additionally, it is believed to harbor brown dwarfs, sometimes called “failed stars,” due to their inability to sustain hydrogen fusion like regular stars. These objects exist on the border between stars and planets, with some capable of fusing heavy hydrogen or deuterium beneath their surfaces.
Following its close encounter with the Pleiades, the moon will rise again on November 27 as the Full Beaver Moon, fully illuminated and shining brightly in the night sky.
For those eager to witness this celestial rendezvous, using binoculars is recommended, and additional guides on telescopes, binoculars, and astrophotography are available for enthusiasts interested in capturing the beauty of the night sky.