The Pleiades That Orion Fired At The Bull

The Pleiades The Pleiades

When late autumn comes the Pleiades (Ply'-a-dees) appear in the evening sky to the eastward. These are the seven shots in the Bull's shoulder, the seven arrows from Orion's bow. The Guide can locate them by continuing the line of Orion's belt, eight times the length of the belt to the right, as one faces the Hunter, so Orion must have been very close indeed. At first they look like a faint light with a few bright pin-points scattered through. Tennyson described them as:

Glittering like a swarm of fireflies

Tangled in a silver braid.

The best time to see them is some clear night about Christmas, when there is no moon, and the Pleiades are nearly overhead, above the mist and smoke of the horizon, and there are no electric lights near by.

Study them attentively. Make a tube of your two hands and look through. Look on the ground, then look back again; look not straight at them, but a little to one side; and at last, mark down on paper how many you can clearly see, putting a big spot for the big one, and little spots for the little ones. Poor eyes see nothing but a haze; fairly good eyes see four of the pin-points; good eyes see five; the best of eyes see seven. I can see seven on a clear winter night when there are no clouds and no moon. This is as high as you need expect to get, although it is said that some men in clear air on a mountain top have seen ten, while the telescope shows that there are 2,000.

In taking these eyesight tests you may use your spectacles if you usually wear them.

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