Fixed star:  MAIA
Constellation: 20 Taurus
Longitude 1900:  28TAU17 Longitude 2000:  29TAU41
Declination 1900:  +24.03′ Declination 2000:  +24.21′
Right ascension:  03h 45m Latitude: +04.23′
Spectral class:  B9 Magnitude: 4.0

The history of the star: Maia

Fl. 20 Taurus, or Bessel’s c,Maia, is one of the Pleiades or Seven Sisters, a group of stars on the shoulder of the Bull.

See Alcyone, the chief star in the Pleiades, for astrological interpretations.

Legend: The eldest of the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters in Taurus. Maia was said to have surpassed her sisters in beauty. Maia of Greek myth had an affair with Zeus and gave birth to Hermes. Later became foster-mother to Arcas (Ursa Minor) who was the son of Zeus and Callisto (Ursa Major) during the period while Callisto was a bear, and before Callisto and Arcas were placed in the heavens by Zeus (she as Ursa Major, he as either Ursa Minor). This is also the goddess Maia of the Romans who was the mother of Mercury and to which the month of May was particularly dedicated. She was the supporter of Vulcan.

from p.405 of Star Names, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889.

Multi ante occasum Maiae coepere.

— Vergil’s (70-19 B.C.) 1st Georgic

Maia appears in the motto as personifying all the Pleiad stars, and the poet cautions the farmer against sowing his grain before the time of its setting.

She was the first-born and most beautiful of the sisters, and some have said that her star was the most luminous of the group; in fact, the Italian astronomer Riccioli (1598-1671), in his Almagestum Novum, distinctly wrote of Maia: dicta lucida Pleiadum & tertii honoris, quae mater Mercurii perhibetur, although in the Astronomia Reformata his “Alcinoe” is the lucida (brightest star); so that we are uncertain which of these stars was the Pleias that he used for some one of the group. But the mythological importance of the goddess whose name Maia bears would indicate that the Italian astronomer Riccioli (1598-1671) may have been correct as to the first of these identifications, and that the titles of the two stars perhaps should be interchanged.

The name also is written Mea and Maja, the feminine form of majus, an older form of magnus. Cicero had the word Majja, calling the Pleiad Sanctissima, for in his day Maia was only another figure for the great and much named Rhea-Cybele, Fauna, Faula, Fatua, Ops, familiarly known as Ma, or Maia Maiestas, the Bona Dea, or Great and Fruitful Mother, who gave name to the Roman month, our May.

Ovid (43 B.C.-18?A.D.) added to her title Pleias uda, the Moist Pleiad, as another symbol for the group; and Dante used her title for the planet Mercury, as the Atlantid was mother of that god.

The equivalent Maou, for the Pleiades in China, is singularly like the Latin word.