Leo is one of the larger constellations in the northern hemisphere and it does resemble a crouching lion, hence the absence of legs. Leo is made up of a fair number of bright stars. The part of the constellation that forms Leo’s mane is called, the “Sickle”. Leo’s backside and tail are represented by a triangle.
Mythology of Constellation Leo
The ancient Egyptians venerated Leo the Lion. It is even believed that the Sphynx consists of Virgo’s head and Leo’s body. Egyptians venerated Leo the lion because the period of the Sun passing through the constellation coincided with the rise of the Nile.
Both Greek and Roman scholars believe that the lion was placed among the stars because of its status as king of the beasts. The Chinese saw this constellation as a dragon and not a lion. They used most of the stars in the constellation to depict Xuanyuan, the Yellow Dragon.
Stars and DSO’s in the Leo Constellation
The centerpiece of Leo is its brightest star. It is located at the sickle’s handle and is called alpha Leonis, or Regulus. This star has been called at various times the King, the Ruler, the Mighty and the Hero. The name Regulus is the Latin diminutive of the world “king” and was chosen by Copernicus himself.
Regulus is a rare example of a chance pair. It has a fellow star that can be easily seen through binoculars. These two stars just happen to be almost in the same line of sight from the Earth; they have no other connection with each other. The constellation Leo is the fifth sign of the zodiac and Regulus is found almost directly on the ecliptic, so both the Moon and the planets will frequently pass right by it.
Gamma Leonis, also known as Algieba (“forehead”), is a binary star that consists of a K-class giant and a G-type giant. It appears as a bright double star with orange-red and greenish-yellow components.
The star Wolf 359 is interesting because it is one of the closest stars to Earth, at only 7.7 light-years’ distance. Wolf 359 is a very faint red dwarf. As such, it can only be seen in a telescope.
Leo contains a number of bright galaxies including Messier 65 (NGC 3623), Messier 66 (NGC 3627), Messier 95 (NGC 3351), Messier 96 (NGC 3368) and elliptical galaxy Messier 105 (NGC 3379).
An object of note within the constellation is the Leo Ring. The ring is a huge primordial cloud of helium and hydrogen gas that orbits two galaxies. This is a left over from the Big Bang explosion.
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