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Running head: CONSTELLATION PAPER

Constellation Paper: Leo


Josh Robinson
SLCC PHYS 1040

CONSTELLATION PAPER

2
Constellation Paper: Leo

Constellation:
Visible in the spring for those who reside in the Northern Hemisphere, and visible to
those who reside in the Southern Hemisphere in autumn, the constellation Leo is one of the
largest constellations in the night sky. At a right ascension of 10.66 hours and a declination of
16.45 degrees you will feast your eyes upon what has been described as a
Lion shaped constellation. Leo is also the 12th largest constellation in
size, covering a total area of 947 square degrees. Leos space neighbors
include: Cancer, Coma, Berenices, Crater, Hydra, Leo Minor, Lynx,
Sextans, Ursa Major, and Virgo (Leo Constellation, 2015).
Mythology:
Rich in mythological history that has been connected to both Greek and Egyptian
mythology, the constellation Leo is considered one of the oldest zodiac

Credner, T.,(2015)
www.allthesky.com

constellations. The Egyptian mythology goes way back to approximately 3200 BC, where they
used Regulus, the brightest star in the Leo constellation, to mark the path of the moon. They also
named the star Zosma as the tail of Leo. For these connections, Leo most likely has an Egyptian
origin. Leo was also known as the Lion in many other cultures including: Arabic, Persian,
Babylonian, Turkish, and Hebrew (Powell, 2015).
As for the more well known Greek history of the constellation Leo, it ties in with the
famous story of the Labors of Hercules. According the Greek Mythology, Hercules was

CONSTELLATION PAPER

assigned with the task of slaying and returning the skin of a lion that had been terrorizing the a
region of Greece. Supposedly, the lion had been capturing women and keeping them hostage in a
cave in an attempt to lure brave warriors who would try to come and rescue the captured women.
And according to the myth, the woman would turn into a lion and devour the brave warrior.
Hercules, assigned with the great task of slaying said lion, tried to first slay the lion with a bow
and arrow, but to no avail as the lions body was impenetrable. So,
Hercules decides to entice the lion to return to its cave that apparently
has two entrances. After blocking off one of the entrances Hercules
then enters the other entrance. He sneaks up on the lion and stuns the
lion with his club. Using his incredible strength, Hercules then chokes
the lion to death (Powell, 2015). He then used the Lions claw to cut
off the pelt, and then Hercules wore the pelt including the lions head
as a head dress. Being that the pelt of the lion could not be pierced, this also protected Hercules
and made him even more feared ( Leo Constellation, 2015).
McMorrow, B.J. (2015)
http://www.pbase.com/
bmcmorrow/image/920
96422

Leo is also home to some of the brightest stars in the sky. As


mentioned earlier, Regulus, also known as Alpha Leonis, marks the

heart of Leo and was used by the Egyptians to mark the path of the moon (Powell, 2015).
Regulus also happens to be the brightest star in the constellation. Other bright stars that make up
Leo include: Denebola, also known as Beta Leonis, marks the tip of the lions tail; Algieba, also
known as Gamma Leonis, is found on what would be the neck of the lion; and the star Zosma,
also referred to as Delta Leonis, marks the lions rear (Leo Constellation, 2015).

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Brightest Stars: Below you will find a list of the twenty brightest stars that are found within Leo
Name
Regulus
1 Leo
Denebola
Leo
Leo
Leo
Leo
Leo
Leo A
Leo B
2 Leo
Leo
Leo
Leo
Leo
54 Leo
Leo
Leo
31 Leo

RA
10h 08m 22.46s
10h 19m 58.16s
11h 49m 03.88s
11h 14m 06.41s
09h 45m 51.10s
11h 14m 14.44s
10h 16m 41.40s
10h 07m 19.95s
09h 41m 09.12s
09h 41m 13.40s
10h 19m 58.60s
10h 32m 48.68s
09h 52m 45.96s
11h 23m 55.37s
11h 21m 08.25s
10h 55m 36.85s
11h 36m 56.93s
09h 31m 43.24s
10h 07m 54.32s

Dec
+11 58 01.9
+19 50 30.7
+14 34 20.4
+20 31 26.5
+23 46 27.4
+15 25 47.1
+23 25 02.4
+16 45 45.6
+09 53 32.6
+09 54 35.0
+19 50 26.0
+09 18 23.7
+26 00 25.5
+10 31 46.9
+06 01 45.7
+24 44 59.1
00 49 25.9
+22 58 05.0
+09 59 51.6

Dist(ly)
77
126
36
58
251
178
260
2131
135
NF
NF
5719
133
79
214
289
178
336
274

VisMag
1.36
2.01
2.14
2.56
2.97
3.33
3.43
3.48
3.52
3.70
3.80
3.84
3.88
4.00
4.05
4.30
4.30
4.32
4.39

Spectral
B7V
KOIII
A3Vvar
A4V
G0ll
A2V
F0lll
A0lb
A5V+
NF
NF
B1lb SB
K0lll
F2lV SB
B9.5Vs
A1
G9lll
K5lllvar
K4lll

Luminosity
288[9] L
320[3] L
15[6] L
15.5 .8[6] L
288[4] L
141[5] L
85[7] L
18800 L
39.42.4/15.41.0 [4] L
39.42.4/15.41.0 [4] L
40 L
295,000[6] L
NF
11.5[7] L
NF
NF
NF
NF
NF

(List of Stars in Leo, 2015)

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Objects of Interest:
Leo is home to the 21st or 22nd brightest star, depending on how astronomers consider it.
Because the 21st brightest star, Alpha Centauri B, is so close to Alpha Centauri A and is not easily
distinguished by the human eye and you cant actually see Alpha Centauri B as a separate star,
some would consider Regulus as the 21st brightest star. Considering the billions of stars in the
night sky, having one of the top 25 brightest stars in the constellation is a pretty big thing.
Regulus is known as the heart of the lion, and is found at the bottom of the sickle. The sickle is

almost like a backwards question mark that makes up what would be the mane of Leo (Sessions,
2015).
Regulus has a mass about 3.5 times that of the Sun. And what is even more interesting is
how fast Regulus is rotating. It completes one full rotation in about 16 hours, and if it was
rotating just 16% percent faster, the force would cause the star to break apart and gravity would
not be able to hold it together. It is also the closest and brightest star to the elliptic plane of Earth.
The name Regulus means little king or prince in Latin (Leo Constellation, 2015).
An interesting fact about the Leo is the annual meteor showers that are associated with
the constellation. There are five annual meteor shows that become active in the spring. The
activity peaks in late February. The most dependable shower of all is called the November
Leonids. The peak date is November 17th, but there is a lot of activity both 2 days before or after
(Plotner, 2008).
In addition to annual meteor showers and the brightest star in the Leo constellation, there
is also a very interesting protoplanetary nebula. The nebula IRAS 09371+1212, also known as
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the Frosty Leo Nebula, is about 3000 light years from Earth. It acquired its name because it has
been found to be rich in water in the form of ice grains, and obviously because it lies in the
constellation of Leo. This particular nebula is noteworthy because it has
formed away from the galactic plane and away from interstellar clouds that
would block the view of the nebula. It almost appears in the shape of a white
butterfly, with a very bright center (ESA, Hubble, & Nasa, 2011).

http://www.spacet
elescope.org/ima
ges/potw1149a/

Some other interesting deep sky objects in Leo include what is known as the Leo Triplet
galaxy group. Making up the Triplet galaxy is Messier 65, Messier 66, and NGC 3628. Messier
65 is an intermediate spiral galaxy that is about 35 million light years from earth. It has an
apparent magnitude of 10.25. It has a diameter of about 90,000 light years. It is found towards
the eastern side of Leo. The best time to view the galaxy is in the Spring. It contains little dust
and gas, even though it appears that that there is recent activity of forming stars. The galaxy
appears to be interacting with its large neighbors. The right ascension of Messier 65 is 11h 18m
55.9s and the declination is +13deg0532 and contains about 200 billion stars (Messier 65,
2015).
The second component of the Triplet galaxy is Messier 66. Like its counterpart Messier
65, Messier 66 is also an intermediate spiral galaxy in the constellation of Leo. Also discovered
by Charles Messier in 1780, the galaxy has a visual magnitude of 8.9 and is about 36 million
light years from Earth. It is about 95,000 light years across and is known for its dust lanes and
bright star clusters. It is also the brightest and the largest of the Triplet. As mentioned above, the
galaxies seem to be interacting with one another, this caused by only being separated by 200,000
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light years. Messier 66 is also known for having dark dust lanes and bright regions throughout
the spiral arms. Four supernovae have been detected within Messier 66 so far, ranging from 1973
to 2009. There have also been x-ray studies that have shown a number of potential black holes
(Messier 66, 2015).
The third component of the Leo Triplet Galaxy is known as NGC 3628. Also known as
the Hamburger Galaxy or Sarahs Galaxy, NGC 3628 is the faintest of the three galaxies. It is

approximately 100,000 light years across and was the only galaxy of the Leo Triplet not
catalogued by Charles Messier. The Hamburger galaxy is a spiral
structure, even though it is viewed perfectly on edge, and as you
can see in the image it almost appears like, well, a hamburger. An
Hewholooks
http://www.messierobjects.com/ngc-3628hamburger-galaxy/

interesting note is that spectroscopic analysis shows that the stars


orbit in the opposite direction of the gas in the galaxy; something

that they claim to be a result from a recent galactic merger. The hamburger galaxy has a right
ascension of 11h 20m 17s and a declination of +13deg3523. The galaxy is 35 million light
years from earth, so it is safe to say that I will not be receiving a Big Mac from this the
hamburger galaxy any time soon (NGC 3628: Hamburger Galaxy, 2015).
Conclusion:
The mythology of the constellation Leo has been around for a long time, but compared to
the timeline of the universe it is in its infancy. There are many more objects of interest than those
I listed in this paper, and many yet to be uncovered. So, the next time you look up at the night
sky, look towards Leo and see what you can uncover.
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References

ESA, Hubble, & NASA. (2011). The Frosty Neo Nebula. Web. Retrieved from:
http://astropix.ipac.caltech.edu/avm_image/12810

Leo Constellation. (2015). Constellation Guide Constellations: A Guide to the Night sky.
Retrieved October 20, 2015, from http://www.constellation-guide.com/constellationlist/leo-constellation/
List of stars in Leo. (2015). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:17, November
29, 2015, from

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?

title=List_of_stars_in_Leo&oldid=677264845
Messier 65. (2015) Messier Objects: A Guide to the Bright Galaxies, Nebulae & Clusters Listed
in the Messier Catalogue. Web. Retrieved from: http://www.messierobjects.com/messier-65/
Messier 66. (2015). Messier Objects: A Guide to the Bright Galaxies, Nebulae & Clusters Listed
in the Messier Catalogue. Web. Retrieved from http://www.messier-objects.com/messier66/
NGC 3628: Hamburger Galaxy. (2015). Messier Objects: A Guide to the Bright Galaxies,
Nebulae & Clusters Listed in the Messier Catalogue. Web. Retrieved from
http://www.messier-objects.com/ngc-3628-hamburger-galaxy/
Plotner, T.,(2008) Leo. Universe Today. Web. Retrieved from:
http://www.universetoday.com/21173/leo
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Powell, M.J., (2015). The Zodiacal Sky: Bright Stars & Deep-Sky Objects in Cancer, Leo, Virgo,
& Surrounding Constellations. Web. Retrieved from
http://www.nakedeyeplanets.com/zodiac-constellations/cnc-leo-vir.htm

Sessions, L. (2015). Regulus is the Lions Heart. EarthSky: Tonight Brightest Stars. Retrieved
November 2, 2015,from http://earthsky.org/brightest-stars/best-regulus-the-heart-of-thelion (Links to an external site.