|Quoted from SEDS:
Known pre-historically. Mentioned by Homer about 750 B.C., by biblical
Amos about 750 B.C., and by Hesiod about 700 B.C.
The Pleiades, also known as Messier 45 (M45), are among those objects
which are known since the earliest times. At least 6 member stars are
visible to the naked eye, while under moderate conditions this number
increases to 9, and under clear dark skies jumps up to more than a dozen
(Vehrenberg, in his Atlas of Deep Sky Splendors, mentions that in
1579, well before the invention of the telescope, astronomer Moestlin
has correctly drawn 11 Pleiades stars, while Kepler quotes observations
of up to 14).
Modern observing methods have revealed that at least about 500 mostly
faint stars belong to the Pleiades star cluster, spread over a 2 degree
(four times the diameter of the Moon) field. Their density is pretty
low, compared to other open clusters. This is one reason why the life
expectation of the Pleiades cluster is also pretty low (see below).
According to Kenneth Glyn Jones, the earliest known references to
this cluster are mentionings by
Homer in his
Ilias (about 750 B.C.) and his Odyssey (about 720 B.C.),
and by Hesiod,
about 700 B.C.. According to Burnham, they were seen in connection to
the agricultural seasons of that time. Also, and the Bible has three
references to the Pleiades (the Hebrew "Kiymah"): Job 9:7-9, Job
38:31-33, and Amos 5:8; the prophet Amos is believed to have given his
message in 750 B.C. or 749 B.C., while there is no consent on the dating
of the book of Job: Some believe it was written about 1,000 B.C. (the
regency of Kings David and Solomon in old Israel) or earlier (Moses,
about 13th to 16th century B.C.), others give reasons that it may have
been created as late as the 3rd to 5th century B.C.. The present author
[hf] does not know if the cluster is mentioned in one of the earlier
Assyrian or Sumerian sources.
The Pleiades also carry the name "Seven Sisters"; according to Greek
mythology, seven daughters and their parents. Their Japanese name is
"Subaru", which was taken to christen the car of same name. The Persian
name is "Soraya", after which the former Iranian empress was named. Old
European (e.g., English and German) names indicate they were once
compared to a "Hen with Chicks". Other cultures tell
more and other
lore of this naked-eye star cluster. Ancient Greek astronomers
Eudoxus of Knidos (c. 403-350 BC) and Aratos of Phainomena (c. 270 BC)
listed them as an own constellation: The Clusterers. This is also
referred to by
Admiral Smyth in his
Burnham points out that the name "Pleiades" may be derived from
either the Greek word for "to sail", or the word "pleios" meaning "full"
or "many". The present author prefers the view that the name may be
derived from the mythological mother, Pleione, which is also the name of
one of the brighter stars.
According to Greek mythology, the main, visible stars are named for
the seven daughters of "father" Atlas and "mother" Pleione: Alcyone,
Asterope (a double star, also sometimes called Sterope), Electra, Maia,
Merope, Taygeta and Celaeno.
Bill Arnett has
created a map
of the Pleiades with the main star names. These stars are also
a labeled copy of the UKS image which appears in this page. Also
note our Pleiades
In 1767, Reverend
used the Pleiades to calculate the probability to find such a group of
stars in any place in the sky by chance alignment, and found the chance
to be about 1/496,000. Therefore, and because there are more similar
clusters, he concluded correctly that clusters should be physical groups
On March 4, 1769,
Messier included the Pleiades as
in his first list of nebulae and star clusters, published 1771.