05 July 2021

Fun Facts

1. Taurus means ‘bull’ in Latin
2. It is the 17th largest constellation in the Earth’s night sky
3. Cave paintings suggest recognition of the constellation since 18,000 BCE
4. Its brightest star, Aldebaran is the 14th brightest star in the Earth’s night sky
5. Every November, a meteor shower—Taurids—occurs within Taurus’ borders

An overview

The constellation of Taurus makes up a bull’s upper torso, head, and horns. Whether the horns point upwards or downwards is heavily debated. The constellation consists of 19 main stars, with the red giant, Aldebaran, being the brightest of these stars, with a luminosity that’s over 500 times that of our sun

It is one of the 12 Greek Zodiac constellations, though the Chinese depict the very same constellation as a white tiger instead of a bull. It is visible both in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, during the autumn and winter months in the former and from late spring to summer’s end in the latter.

The myth

A long time ago, Zeus—the King of Gods himself—took notice and interest of a beautiful princess named Europa, daughter of King Agenor. He then disguised himself as a beautiful bull, and placed himself amidst the other bulls in King Agenor’s herd.

Soon enough, Europa had taken note of the beautiful creature in her father’s herd of bulls, and found herself mesmerized by its unmatched beauty. She then approached the bull, and climbed onto its back.

Without warning, the bull started galloping towards the beach. Upon reaching the shoreline, it then leaped into the sea, and eventually swam to the island of Crete—with Princess Europa still on its back.

Once they arrived back on solid ground, Zeus broke the illusion and revealed himself to Europa. He proclaimed her as his mistress, and Europa eventually had three of Zeus’ sons. In celebration and commemoration of his conquest, Zeus then placed the bull in the Earth’s night sky—which is why the constellation doesn’t include the beast’s lower torso, for it was mostly submerged in his swim to the isle.

The constellation

The Constellation of Taurus is situated in the northern sky’s first quadrant, and is visible between latitudes -65 to +90 degrees. It is widely known for being one of the largest constellations in the Earth’s night sky, and for its many bright stars that make up its form.

Of the 19 main stars it consists, there exists four celestial bodies of note: Aldebaran, the brightest star of Taurus and the 13th brightest star in the Earth’s sky; Elnath, the second brightest star of Taurus; Pectus Tauri, which directly translates as ‘the bull’s chest’ from Latin; and the Pleiades, which is a star cluster that’s extremely visible in the night sky, due to its close proximity to Earth.

Want to learn about other constellations aside from Taurus? Find out more about Gemini or Cancer. Alternatively, you can simply click here for a full list of constellations.