Astronomy
The Constellation Leo

How to Recognize the Constellation Leo in the Night Sky



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The Constellation Leo
Jose Juan Gutierrez's image for:
"How to Recognize the Constellation Leo in the Night Sky"
Caption: The Constellation Leo
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Image by: Torsten Bronger
© Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Leo_constellation_map.svg&page=1

Leo is one among the 88 constellations that have been catalogued in the sky and it also forms part of the 13 constellation of the zodiac. Leo is a constellation that has been noticed by ancient civilizations, all of which related it to the figure of a lion in the sky. Leo remains visible in the northern skies during the months of spring and can be seen throughout the months of March, April and May. The easiest way of locating Leo in the sky is by identifying an asterism known as the Sickle, which looks like backwards question mark.

Where is Leo Located in the sky?

Leo remains as one the most distinctive constellations in the night sky. This constellation lies between the constellations Virgo and cancer. It also lies about 40 degrees from the Ursa Major, a circumpolar asterism, which is easy to spot throughout the year. Leo begins to appear on the eastern horizon just after dark in mid-march and remains visible during the rest of the month and throughout April and may in the northern hemisphere.

How do you recognize Leo in the sky?

Leo´s most notable feature is a backwards question mark called the Sickle, which forms part of Leo´s mane. At the very bottom of the Sickle is Regulus, a blue-white star. In the eastern most part of Leo, is a triangle of stars, giving form to Leo´s tail and hind legs. The brightest star in this triangle is named Denebola. The rest of the stars in the constellation of Leo form the body of the lion with Regulus depicting the lion´s heart.

How to find Leo in the night sky?

If you live in the northern hemisphere, the easiest way to find Leo is by identifying the circumpolar asterism of the Big Dipper. It´s called circumpolar because, it is always visible throughout the year near Polaris, the polar star. The Big Dipper may be spotted in the northeastern sky with its handle pointing to the horizon and it remains in the northeast throughout much of the spring season. Drawing an imaginary line from the bowl´s outer stars lead in one direction to Polaris and in the opposite direction to Leo.

Mythology

Leo, the lion has been one of the most well recognized constellations since ancient times. It was known by the Persians as Shir; the Jewish called it Arye; it was known as Simha by the Indians; and the Babylonians named it the great lion. According to Greek mythology, Hercules killed the Nemean lion on the first of his twelve labors for the king of Mycenae. The Egyptians associated Leo with the sun, since the appearance of the constellation Leo in the sky coincided with the summer equinox and the annual flooding of the Nile River.

The constellation Leo contains some deep sky objects, such as galaxies, all of which are spiral galaxies, except for M 105, which is an elliptical galaxy. These galaxies may be observed with most small telescopes or binoculars; however, their most distinct characteristics can only be observed with more powerful resolving telescopes. Given, there are clear night skies with little turbulent atmosphere, the most intricate characteristics, including Algieba, which is a double star, may be spotted.

You can identify the constellation Leo in the night sky by using a planisphere. A planisphere is a map of the constellations and the stars. A planisphere contains a movable disk with a window through which you can observe a portion of the sky that corresponds to your latitude. Once you have identified a reference point in the night sky, you can use a planisphere to help you identify other interesting features of the sky, including the constellation Leo. According to Nightsky.com, you can use the pointer stars of the Big Dipper to find the constellation Leo in the sky.

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