Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterAldebaran, also known as Alpha Tauri, is the brightest star in the Taurus constellation. It lies approximately 65 light years away. The star is sometimes referred to as the follower since is seems to follow the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, across the night sky. It has been called the Bull’s Eye because of its position in the head of the Taurus.
Aldebaran has the appearance of being the brightest member of the more scattered Hyades cluster, which is the closest star cluster to Earth. This is an optical illusion because it is located in the line of sight between the Earth and the Hyades. It is actually an independent star. NASA’s Pioneer 10 spacecraft is currently traveling in the direction of the star and will reach it in about two million years. As technology advances, man should actually reach Aldebaran sooner than Pioneer 10.
Aldebaran is a K5III star. That means it is orangish, large, and has moved off the main sequence after exhausting the hydrogen fuel in its core. It is thought to have a minor companion (a dim M2 dwarf orbiting at several hundred AU). The main star now fuses helium and has expanded to a diameter of 44.2 times the diameter of the Sun. That puts it at nearly 61 million kilometers. The star shines with 150 times the Sun’s luminosity. Its apparent magnitude of 0.87, makes it the 13th brightest star in the night sky. It is slightly variable, of the irregular variable type, by about 0.2 magnitude.
Aldebaran can be found in the heavens by following the three stars of Orion’s belt from left to right (in the Northern Hemisphere) or right to left (in the Southern), the first bright star found by continuing that line is Aldebaran.
There are two good articles to help you research Aldebaran. Click here and the other one is here. We offer a great article on the Taurus constellation here on Universe Today. Astronomy Cast has a good episode about interstellar travel.