Sand and Stars

A Tauri… Aloe and Star

27 Feb 2019

Few things are as gratifying as when three major passions collide. I love books. I love stars. I love aloes. And yesterday was about all three.

I was born in Rhodesia (which became Zimbabwe in 1980) – imagine my delight when I was scratching around in a secondhand bookstore and I found this book…

Published in 1974, this book was one of an excellent series of field guides and natural history. (Bundu was Rhodesian slang for the bush.)

What a great read it was wandering around my country of my youth with the authors in quest of the 30 species of aloes known (at the time) to occur in Rhodesia (of which four are endemic). And as for the 1960s and ’70s faded-looking photos and the watercolour illustrations… they were just great!

But above all was coming across this botanical treasure…

An aloe named A Tauri

The aloe named “A Tauri”. Image credit A Field Guide to the Aloes of Rhodesia, 1974

E.J. Bullock of Bulawayo discovered this species in 1965, growing on steep mountain rocks near Mnene Mission in then Rhodesia.   

Mwenezi, Zimbabwe. Image credit A Field Guide to the Aloes of Rhodesia, 1974
It grows on the sheer rock faces of only three mountains in Zimbabwe (indeed it can cling to almost vertical rock faces) at altitudes of about 1,067 m to 1,220 m. on
The Urania’s Mirror Taurus... a boxed set of 32 constellation cards first published by Samuel Leigh of the Strand, London, in November 1824.
The Urania’s Mirror Taurus, November 1824.

How did it get its name? Alas, not from Taurus the constellation but the Latin reference to E.J. Bullock’s name! 

The star named A Tauri

A1 Tauri (right); A2 Tauri (lower left). DSS2 image

Actually, it wasn’t until I went to observe A Tauri last night that I discovered the Bayer designation A Tauri is shared by two stars in the constellation Taurus – A1 Tauri (37 Tauri) and A2 Tauri (39 Tauri)

A1 Tauri = 37 Tauri

RA 04 04 41.7   Dec +22 04 54   Mag 4.4

A1 Tauri = 39 Tauri

RA 04 05 20.2   Dec +22 00 32   Mag 5.9

What a lovely sight in the 10″ Dobs! A1 Tauri is a gorgeous bright orange star. A2 Tauri lies ~10′ SE and it is a pretty pale yellow star.  A third star shares the field –  mag 7.9 HD 284138, lying ~3′ N of A2 Tauri – and it is also a lovely shade of orange. The field is awash with stars… a very pretty stellar picture.

Copyright © Susan Young 2019