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Leo Constellation: Facts About the Lion

Leo the Lion is one of the earliest recognized constellations. The Mesopotamians are known to have documented the “lion” constellation. The Persians called it Ser or Shir; the Turks, Artan; the Syrians, Aryo; the Jewish, Arye; the Indians, Simha. These are all translated as “lion.”

Hunting the lion

Leo is a highly recognizable constellation, as it is one of the few constellations that resemble its namesake. It is fairly easy to find because the “pointer stars” of the Big Dipper point to Leo.

March does come in with a lion. The constellation becomes visible in the Northern Hemisphere around the spring equinox and is easily identifiable through May. Leo lies between Cancer to the west and Virgo to the east.

  • Right ascension: 11 hours
  • Declination: 15 degrees
  • Visible between latitudes 90 and minus 65 degrees
  • Best seen in April at 9 p.m.
This sky chart shows where the constellation Leo, the Lion and its trademark sickle appear in the eastern sky as viewd from the Northern Hemisphere during spring. This chart is where the constellation appears at 8 p.m. EDT as viewed from the U.S. East Coa
This sky chart shows where the constellation Leo, the Lion and its trademark sickle appear in the eastern sky as viewed from the Northern Hemisphere during spring. This chart is where the constellation appears at 8 p.m. EDT as viewed from the U.S. East Coast.
Credit: Starry Night Software

The constellation can be found by looking for the "sickle" starting at the Regulus (Alpha Leonis) star. Regulus, Al Jabbah, and Algieba, together with the fainter stars ζ Leo (Adhafera), μ Leo (Ras Elased Borealis), and ε Leo (Ras Elased Australis), constitute the sickle.

Another star in the planet is Al Geiba, the brightest star in the curve of the sickle, means "the lion’s mane." In January 2001, a large object eight times the size of Jupiter was discovered orbiting Al Geiba.

A triangle of stars forms the lion’s haunches, with the brightest star of this trio being Denebola, which means "tail of the lion."

There are a number of luminous galaxies within Leo, including the Leo triplet of M66, M65 and NGC 3628. The Leo Ring, a cloud of hydrogen and helium gas, orbits of two dwarf galaxies.

Galaxy Triplet in the Constellation of Leo
Triplet of bright galaxies in the constellation of Leo (The Lion), together with a multitude of fainter objects: distant background galaxies and much closer Milky Way stars. The image hints at the power of the VST and OmegaCAM for surveying the extragalactic Universe and for mapping the low brightness objects of the galactic halo.
Credit: ESO/INAF-VST/OmegaCAM. Acknowledgement: OmegaCen/Astro-WISE/Kapteyn Institute

Mythology

Leo is the Nemean Lion, which was killed by Hercules on one of the 12 labors he had to perform for killing his family. According to Greek mythology, the lion that terrorized the citizens had a hide that could not punctured by iron, bronze or stone. Having broken all of his weapons fighting the man-eating lion, Hercules finally strangled it to death and placed it in the heavens as one of his conquests.

Astrology is not a science, but Leo is one of the 13 constellations of the Zodiac. Leo is the fifth sign of the Zodiac and represents those born July 22 to August 22. It is considered a masculine, extroverted sign.

— Kim Ann Zimmermann

Constellation Quiz: What's Your Cosmic IQ?
Constellations ancient and modern grace the skies year round. Let's see what you know about the star patterns that appear overhead every night.
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Constellation Quiz: What's Your Cosmic IQ?
Constellations ancient and modern grace the skies year round. Let's see what you know about the star patterns that appear overhead every night.
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