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November is the Month of the Pleiades

November is the month of the Pleiades star cluster. On these November nights, the Pleiades cluster shines from nightfall until dawn. Locate it to the lower left of the blazing planet Jupiter this evening. (Or if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, look for the Pleiades more directly below Jupiter.)

Image credit: s58y

The Pleiades cluster is one of the most recognizable star patterns in the night sky. Its six brightest stars look like a little dipper. In fact, people in the Northern Hemisphere often mistake the Pleiades for the real Little Dipper asterism, which is located farther north on the sky’s dome. The misty-looking dipper of the Pleiades hovers over the northeastern horizon as darkness falls.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Pleiades’ all night appearance coincides with late autumn. As this part of the world moves toward winter, it’s easy to imagine the Pleiades as a frosty patch on the dome of night. But in the Southern Hemisphere now, where spring flowers are blooming, this cluster of nocturnal suns watches over the season of awakening and agriculture. In South Africa, for example, the Pleiades are called the hoeing-stars.

Pleiades: Famous Seven Sisters

Yearly, on or near November 21, the Pleiades cluster culminates – reaches its highest point in the sky – at midnight. (In this instance, midnight means midway between sunset and sunrise.) Historically, the midnight culmination of the Pleiades was very significant to many ancient and primitive peoples.

Some of these Pleiades midnight celebrations still linger into the present, such as the old Druid rite of Halloween. Although the midnight culmination date for the Pleiades advances over the long course of time, the date of Halloween has remained fixed by tradition.

Certainly, the month of the Pleiades is well worth celebrating, as the sky’s most celebrated star cluster adorns the sky all night long on these November nights!

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