Giant Strides

“So, you old pirate. Where are you taking me?”

Elvira Martuuk leaned against the pilot’s seat. She was behind him and looked over his shoulder and onto the holographic galaxy map. For the first time in an age, Andrew thought he smelled perfume, even though it was only the faintest trace. No, he was sure. That grumpy explorer-engineer in her blue jumpsuit wore a lady’s scent around her.

“What are you sniffing at?” She nudged him in the side and gestured at the map. “Where do we go, I asked?”

He had to chuckle a bit. “Well, since we only have three days or so, I thought I take you along the so-called Giant Strides. It’s a route on which we’ll stay close to Sol. Say 500 light years or so. There’s a chain of giant stars that we can follow and it’ll lead us to some fabulous places. There’s two clusters, a nebula, some more exotic things and also a place that will put a smile on your engineering face once we arrive there. All in all, it’s more of a novice explorer’s first round trip… But since we only have three days, it’ll do.”

She nodded, and he took it for some kind of approval.

Our first target is Aldebaran, or just Alpha Tauri. It is an orange type III giant star in the constellation of Taurus with nearly 30 solar radii. Its name comes from the Arabic word ‘al-dabaran’, which means ‘the follower’. The Persians in ancient times called it ‘tascheter’ or ’tishtya’. It would translate to something like the ‘watcher of the east’ and to the Persians it was one of the four Royal Stars of the heavens – the other three being Antares, Formalhaut and Regulus. It’s remarkable that in 34th century galactic maps Aldebaran is held in its Arabic name whereas the region around is referred to as the Tascheter Sector. Astronomy is funny sometimes.”

Elvira seemed to get more and more comfortable in the cockpit. While Andrew was showing her the route within the next couple of jumps she had even ‘borrowed’ one of the folding chairs from the drawer and instead of going down to the co-pilot’s seat she had seated herself beside ‘that pirate’. With the explorer inside her gaining the upper hand, she looked out of the canopy towards the big orange star.

“Alright, brash pilot. Where to next?”

“Next to Aldebaran we take a trip to Alnath, I’d say. It’s also called Beta Tauri. Its name is Arabic, too, and it means “the butting”. This refers to its visual location (from Sol) as the Bull’s Horns within the constellation of Taurus.” With this, Andrew was waving across the cockpit window towards a couple of stars shining in the dark. “Unlike Aldebaran, it’s not a giant star but a very luminous B-type star with a brightness 700 times that of Sol. We can stay for a while in the Tauri group of stars and in astronomical terms it is often referred to as the Tauri Moving Cluster  or TMC. It is a stream of several hundred stars really, that all share the same motion trajectory.” His index finger dashed across the canopy.

“Interestingly, the TMC also shares that same motion with two close by star clusters: The Hyades and the Pleiades. So one can assume that all stars from these three objects originally developed in the same patch of space. But we’ll come to those sisters later.”

“Fascinating. I forgot how long I dug myself in in that rocky base across the Bubble. I was here once in an Adder I recall. Seems like ages ago…”

And with a bit of nostalgia (and perfume) between them, they decided where to go next…

Trip Advisory:

  • Aldebaran (K III Giant)
  • Alnath
  • Algol (The ‘Demon Star’)

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