Constellation chart and illustration by Alexander Jamieson.

Pleiades and Indigenous Skylore

The Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, Subaru, and Messier 45, is a beautiful open star cluster in the November sky. The asterism is populated by hot blue and extremely luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. The brightest stars are Alcyone, Atlas, Maia, Merope, Electra, Pleione, Taygeta, Celaone, Sterope, Asterope. Most of the stars in the Pleiades are enveloped by a bluish nebula. HD 23514 is a star in the Pleiades surrounded by hot dust particles. These dust particles are believed to be the seeds of planetesimals. Planetesimals are the building blocks of planets. The stars in the Pleiades are slowing moving apart. Astronomers estimate that after 250 million years the stars will be widely dispersed and the grouping of stars will be gone. 

The Lost Boys

In Blackfoot tradition, the asterism Pleiades is often called the bunch stars. A story is told that a long time ago there was a young man. This young man’s father was going out to hunt buffalo. The young man ran after his father and requested an unborn buffalo. The father agreed to bring one back for the young man. Late that evening, the father returned from his hunt. He did not bring back the unborn buffalo calf, saying that he forgot. The father walked away and went into his tipi. The young man was very hurt and very sad, thinking his father didn't love him. The young man turned around and walked out to the prairie. When he walked out to the prairie he saw five boys who also felt neglected by their fathers. The boys did not want to go back. They started to think about what they should do. One of them said they could be six giant trees, but the others were worried about being chopped down. Another boy suggested becoming six lakes, but the others were worried they would dry up. One of the boys suggested they become swans, but the others feared being hunted and killed. Finally, one of the youngest boys suggested they should go up to the heavens, where they can look down on the people. So the boys went up to the heavens. These six lost boys cannot be seen in spring, when the buffalo calves are born.