The Constellation Leo

The Constellation Leo

The Constellation Leo
Jose Juan Gutierrez's image for:
"The Constellation Leo"
Caption: The Constellation Leo
Image by: Orthogaffe
© Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Leo is one of the 88 constellations that exist as group of stars in the sky and one of the twelve constellations of the zodiac, as well. The constellation Leo lies between the constellations Cancer and Virgo and about 40 degrees south of the Big dipper. Leo can be seen throughout the spring season when it is rising in the eastern horizon higher and higher each day. Leo can be found in the night sky by recognizing a backwards question mark which is known as the Sickle. The constellation Leo was known to ancient civilizations as a lion in the sky and in Greek mythology, Leo, the lion, was killed by Hercules and then was placed into the heavens.

Deep Sky Objects in Leo

Looking in the direction of Leo one can find many deep sky objects, such as those cataloged as Messier objects. The deep sky objects found in the constellation of Leo, due to the area it covers in the sky include M65, M66, M95, M96, M105 and NGC 3628. These objects may be observed with small telescopes given, there is clear skies. They can also be observed using binoculars, although their main features may only be seen with larger and more powerful telescopes.

Leonids meteor shower

The meteor shower stemming from the constellation Leo and known as Leonids occurs every year during the month of November. The Leonids meteor shower is due to the left over fragments of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. A meteor shower occurs due to the interaction between the Comet´s debris and the Earth´s atmosphere. The Leonids meteor shower reaches its peak on the days of November 17 to 18 and an approximate number of 10 meteors per hour can be observed during those days.

Leo in ancient cultures

Leo was one of the most well recognized constellations in the night sky by many ancient civilizations of the world. Leo was known as Ser by the Persians; the Babylonians called it the great lion; the Turks named it Artan; for the Jewish, it was known as Arye; the Indians called it Simha; and the Syrians called it Aryo. For all these civilations Leo represented a lion in the sky. In Greek mythology, Hercules killed the Nemean lion in one of his twelve trials. After this occurrence the Nemean lion was placed in the sky, as a constellation, by Hera, the moon goddess.

 Stars in the Leo constellation

Leo is best recognized in the night sky by the Sickle which looks like a backwards question mark in the sky. The Sickle, which gives its shape to Leo´s head, is formed by the stars Epsilon Leonis, Mu Leonis, Zeta Leonis, Gamma Leonis Eta Leonis and Alpha Leonis. Denebola (Beta Leonis) forms the lion´s tail. Delta Leonis and Theta Leonis form the rest of Leo´s body. The stars sigma Leonis and iota Leonis form the left hind leg of Leo. Rho Leonis forms the right hind foot and the stars omicron Leonis and Eta leonis  Form the right front leg  of Leo.

Alpha Leonis, which is the bright star known as Regulus forms the heart of the lion.  Regulus is the brightest stars in the constellation of Leo and can be seen with the naked eye. The constellation of Leo can be recognized in any clear sky during the months of March, April and May, which is when this constellation appears rising on the east gradually until reaching a high altitude in the sky. If you´re are able to find the star Regulus, it will be easy to spot the Sickle since Regulus forms the base of this asterism.

According to, the constellation Leo can be observed in the sky during the months of March , April and May, which is when the constellation is visible just after dark.

More about this author: Jose Juan Gutierrez

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