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Thread: Take the Pleiades Challenge!

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    Mark Moyer's Avatar
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    Default Take the Pleiades Challenge!



    The Pleiades (aka Seven Sisters, Messier 45) has six bright stars that are fairly easy to see naked eye. But can you discern more than six stars? I read in one place that 14 can potentially be seen naked eye. And I've seen a table of the 21 stars brighter than mag. 6.5, since mag. 6.5 is sometimes said to be the limit of naked eye observation. Of course, these are talking about what you can discern with very dark skies. In any case, I present to you the Pleiades Challenge. Attached is a sheet that shows the location of the brightest six stars but no others. The idea is for you to print it out, take it observing, and try to fill in more stars beyond these six. Dark skies and excellent eyes will help, but so too will good conditions and patience (when I've tried it at my local semi-dark site, it takes a while of staring to be able to see any beyond six). I would recommend that you not look at Pleiades images ahead of time; if you try to spot the fainter stars without knowing ahead of time where they are, when you mark a star in what later proves to be the right spot, you'll know it wasn't hopeful imagination that let you 'see' that star (many of you more experienced observers already know where some of the fainter members are).

    Pleiades Challenge.pdf

    Good luck, and let me know how you do! Don't be embarrassed if you can only see six; we're all limited by our local light pollution, our non-perfect eyes, etc.

    A little info on the Pleiades:
    This open cluster contains over 1,000 stars.
    420 light years from Earth.
    ~125 million years old.
    The faintest of the six bright stars is mag. 4.3.
    The reflection nebula around the brightest stars is not, as originally assumed, a dust cloud from which the cluster grew. That cloud was long ago blown away by radiation pressure. Instead, the cluster just happens to be passing through a different dust cloud.
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    Default Re: Take the Pleiades Challenge!

    Sounds like a good naked eye challenge.
    You know....the one you need when you feel tired of looking with just one eye through the eyepiece
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    Default Re: Take the Pleiades Challenge!

    Years ago I remember seeing 11 Pleiades members. I'll see if I can beat that when the moon is gone.
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    Default Re: Take the Pleiades Challenge!

    Thanks Mark. I printed out a few sheets to keep on hand. I've always said that the Pleiades is an excellent example to bring home the point about the light gathering capabilities of the naked eye versus binoculars versus a telescope. It's a truly beautiful cluster.
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    Default Re: Take the Pleiades Challenge!

    This is great! I havent really tried looking at the Paliedes without trying to see the nebula. And now the Neb is crazy bright from my new house. When we get some clear skies I am going to give this a whirl!
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    Default Re: Take the Pleiades Challenge!

    Thanks Mark. While I have only done this very casually, I seem to recall picking out about 9 or 10 one evening at the dark site. I have seen the "7 sisters" at home under my moderately light polluted skies, again with a more casual approach.

    What one can typically discern with the naked eye is of course a very individual thing because of optical acuity and experience, as well as the quality of the observing site at the time. That is why naked eye limiting magnitude (NELM) estimates made by one are not applicable to the next person. But these kind of challenges are good exercises for the individual to get a handle on their optical ability and conditions.

    As Mark recommends, you may not wish to look at more in depth images or charts initially. But of course doing so after the fact will help validate your results. For verification purposes, below is a link to a Sky & Telescope article about this very challenge. Be warned, if you do look at the link first, there are spoilers. If you feel you can be objective enough to do so and not have it influence your observations, then of course there is no harm in looking beforehand. Have fun.

    How Many Pleiades Can YOU See? - Sky & Telescope
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    Default Re: Take the Pleiades Challenge!

    Quote Originally Posted by KT4HX View Post
    For verification purposes, below is a link to a Sky & Telescope article about this very challenge. Be warned, if you do look at the link first, there are spoilers. If you feel you can be objective enough to do so and not have it influence your observations, then of course there is no harm in looking beforehand. Have fun.

    How Many Pleiades Can YOU See? - Sky & Telescope
    Drats! Did S&T steal my idea?!

    And I thought I had come up with this myself. I wonder if I arrived at the idea independently (wouldn't be hard since the idea is somewhat obvious) or if I read the article and forgot about it but subconsciously stole it (also pretty easy, especially given my bad memory). I'd check to see the date on the article, but I'm still holding out so I don't see an image with all the star positions.

    Besides recording the positions of stars where you definitely see them, it might be interesting to record the locations where you think you see them or where you just slightly got the impression of a star. That way we can see how reliable these mere impressions are.

    In any case, thanks for posting the link, Alan!
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    Default Re: Take the Pleiades Challenge!

    Great challenge. Printed and will try out towards the later part of the month around thanksgiving. Fun stuff, thanks for sharing.
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    Default Re: Take the Pleiades Challenge!

    7 on a really good night here... I'm going to a "darker" place the end of the month weather permitting.
    Also thought this might be an interesting article to go along with the challenge - maybe explore even further:

    The Merope Nebula and Its Well-Kept Secret - Sky & Telescope

    Thanks Alan - Appreciate the post!

    SKE
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    Default Re: Take the Pleiades Challenge!

    Thanks Steve for the link!

    I have been considering the occulting strip in past, and that's a good idea to try it.

    Best,

    JG
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