Constellation Taurus (Bull)

Taurus: IAU Constellation Map [150]


The constellation Taurus is located northwest of Orion and is surrounded by the two large, loose star clusters, the Hyades and the Pleiades, easy to identify. The brightest stars of the Hyades form a conspicuous V in the sky, which appears particularly prominent when the constellation is setting and it is directly above the western horizon. In most depictions, however, only the bull's head, as it looks down menacingly at the hunter Orion, is associated with the stars. The two horn stars β and ζ Tauri are also noticeable, although the northern one is not related to the constellation Auriga, however, it is usually counted among its pentagonal alignment. The area enclosed by the constellation border according to the IAU is 797 square degrees. The center of the constellation culminates around midnight on November 30th. [9, 15]

Stars with Proper Names [154]
α Tau Aldebaran, Cor Tauri, Parilicium
β Tau Alnath, El Nath, Nath
γ Tau Hyadum I
δ1 Tau Hyadum II
ε Tau Ain, Oculus Boreus
η Tau Alcyone
16 Tau Celaeno, Celieno, Celeno, "Lost Pleiad"
17 Tau Electra
19 Tau Taygeta, Taygete
20 Tau Maia
21 Tau Asterope
22 Tau Sterope Ii
23 Tau Merope
27 Tau Atlas
28 Tau Pleione
Data for constellation Taurus [150]
IAU NameTaurus
IAU GenitiveTauri
IAU Abbr.Tau
English NameBull
Season (47° N)August … March
Right Ascension03h 23m 21s … 06h 00m 55s
Declination-01° 20' 46" … +31° 06' 01"
Area797 deg2
Neighbours (N↻)Aur, Per, Ari, Cet, Eri, Ori, Gem

Deep-Sky Object Descriptions


Mythology and History

As one of the oldest constellations, Taurus was already known in the first advanced civilizations. It is believed that the constellation was around 5000 BC. Was formed. In Greek mythology, the bull tells the beautiful story that happened when Zeus (Jupiter) fell in love with the daughter of King Agenor, who ruled Tire in Phenicia. Zeus turned into a bull to kidnap the virgin Europe:

Constellation Taurus
Constellation Taurus: Illustration from «Uranometria» by Johann Bayer, copper engraving by Alexander Mair, 1603 [28]

Hermes (Mercury) left the land named after Athena, swung his wings and soared skyward. Zeus called him aside and told him - without telling him his real intention - to go immediately to Phenicia and drive the king's young bulls to the coast in the mountains. This is where the great king's beautiful daughter usually enjoyed herself with other girls from Tire.

Zeus turned into a snow-white, strong and beautiful bull with horns, transparent as a precious stone. He mingled with the herd and thus approached lovely Europe. She admired the magnificent and peaceful bull. But even if he appeared meek, at first she shied away from touching him, but then came over and held flowers to his white mouth. Zeus, in love, was delighted, and while he hoped that his desire would be fulfilled, he kissed her hands. Sometimes he was playing with her and jumping around on the green lawn, sometimes he stretched out his snow-white flank in the yellowish sand. Little by little, Europe's fear faded. Now the bull let the girl's hands scratch its chest and wrap fresh wreaths around its horns.

At last the royal maiden dared to sit on the bull's back without knowing who was supposed to be carrying her. Then the god withdrew imperceptibly from the land and the dry coast and cunningly set foot in the outermost waves, went in more and more and carried his prey through the vastness of the sea. Europe looked back anxiously at the slowly receding coast, clutching the bull's mane with her right hand and her light robe with her left. The wind billowed in it and played with her long, blonde hair. Fear gave her new grace. Often she pulled her girl's feet up from the sea and feared the touch of the splashing water, often the god plunged her back into the waves with deceit so that she could hold on to his neck all the more closely. When they reached the other bank, Zeus suddenly stood there without his horns, and he had changed back from the bull to the god. They rose to heaven and the princess became his lover. [20, 77]

Constellation Taurus
Constellation Taurus: Illustration from «Prodromus Astronomiae» by Johannes Hevelius, 1690. Mirrored view from «outside of the celestial sphere» [19]

According to another variant of this story, Zeus did not turn himself into a bull, but rather sent a real bull to the virgin Europe to kidnap her from among her playmates. This bull then wandered about ownerless in Crete.

The Cretan Queen Pasiphae liked this beautiful bull so much that she commissioned the well-known artisan Daidalos to build a wooden cow that was imitated in a realistic way. Daidalos provided this hollow cow with a flap on the back and then covered it with cowhide. The voluptuous Pasiphae slipped into this cow to indulge her desires. The bull was grazing in the meadow near Gortys, finally came up, was fooled by the dummy and jumped on the supposed cow.

From this connection the Minotaur arose, a hideous hybrid creature. Soon the islanders decided to hide this eyesore from the eyes of the world and hid the Minotaur in a tortuous structure, in a dark wall. However, the bull that fathered this being was beaten with frenzy by Poseidon, god of the sea, as a punishment. Nothing is known of a punishment for the lustful Pasiphae. This bull, which wandered furiously and as a terrible plague on the island of Crete, was now to be captured alive by Heracles in his seventh task, which Eurysteus assigned him, and brought to Argus.

Based on the first story, there are the names Portitor Europae (ferryman of Europe) and Proditor Europae (traitor to Europe). The name Amasius Pasiphaes (lover of the Pasiphae) reminds of the second story. Other names are Bos (bull), Princeps Armenti (leader of the herd) and, strangely enough, Bubulcus (farm hand, ox handler), a name that is more likely to which Bootes would be entitled. [20]


  • [9] «Drehbare Sternkarte SIRIUS» von H. Suter-Haug; Hallwag-Verlag, Bern
  • [15] «Hartung's Astronomical Objects for Southern Telescopes» by David Malin and David J. Frew; Melbourne University Press 1995; ISBN 0-522-84553-3
  • [19] «Prodromus Astronomiae» Johannes Hevelius, 1690; DOI:10.3931/e-rara-456
  • [20] «Sternbilder und ihre Mythen» von Gerhard Fasching; Zweite, verbesserte Auflage; Springer Verlag Wien, New York; ISBN 3-211-82552-5 (Wien); ISBN 0-387-82552-5 (New York)
  • [28] «Uranometria omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata aereis laminis expressa» Johann Bayer, Augsburg, 1603; DOI:10.3931/e-rara-309
  • [77] The Starry Sky: Taurus by Deborah Byrd; Astronomy 12/94, p.60
  • [150] IAU: The Constellations, 11. Oktober 2020;
  • [154] Yale Bright Star Catalog, 15. Oktober 2020;