The Evening Star Dances With the Pleiades

Fred Espenak/NASA - Venus nuzzles the Pleiades—the Seven Sisters, Seven Wives or seeds, whichever you prefer.

The sky is always magical, eloquent, awe-inspiring—and sometimes downright exquisite

It is definitely that and more just after sunset on April 10 and 11 as Venus hovers near the Pleiades star cluster.

The delightful pairing of the stellar group—whose bright lights are best noted with peripheral vision rather than stared at directly—and the evening star will take place in the west as night falls. They will be closing in on one another the night of April 10 as well, though they’ll edge a bit closer on the 11th, according to Sky and Telescope.

“Look for the Pleiades just 3 degrees to the upper right of Venus during and after late twilight. That’s about two finger-widths at arm’s length,” says Sky and Telescope. On Saturday April 11, “The Pleiades are at their closest to Venus this evening, about 2½ degrees to its right as twilight fades in the west.”

While many legends, including in American Indian cultures, peg the Pleiades as siblings, they are that way in scientific circles too, says Earthsky.org.

“In both myth and science, the Pleiades are considered to be sibling stars,” says Earthsky.org. “Modern astronomers say the Pleiades stars were born from the same cloud of gas and dust some 100 million years ago. This gravitationally bound cluster of several hundred stars looms some 430 light-years distant, and these sibling stars drift through space together at about 25 miles per second. Many of these Pleiades stars shine hundreds of times more brightly than our sun.”

The Pleiades have numerous names in an array of cultures both ancient and modern, though for the most part they are known as the Seven Sisters. The Zuni, according to Earthsky.org, call them the seed stars because their annual appearance signals the start of planting season.

The group last made headlines in September 2014 when they converged upon the moon.

Three years ago, Venus passed directly in front of the Pleiades, which it does every eight years.

But seeing Venus resting next to them adds some sparkle to the night. Also adorning the sky this time of year is zodiacal light.

“While you’re looking at Venus and the Pleiades this evening, wait around for the sky to get really dark,” says Earthsky.org. “Then look for the mysterious zodiacal light adorning the western sky. You’ll need to wait until around 80 minutes after sunset to see it.”

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