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Leo, The Lion Constellation

Leo (Pronounciation:Lee-o, Abbrev:Leo, Latin:Leonis) is a constellation, one of 88 constellations that the night sky is divided into. The sky is not divided up equally between the constellations. Leo takes up 946.964 sq. degrees of the night sky which equates to 2.3% of the night sky. The constellation gets its name as it name means The Lion . The constellation is one of the original constellations that was devised by the Ancient Greco-Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy who lived between 90 A.D. and 168 A.D.

Leo is a member constellation of the Zodiac grouping, a group of 12 star signs that astrologers use to predict someones future based on their date of birth and which constellation appeared when the Sun set. The Zodiac year may be divided up equally between the twelve signs but when they appear in the night sky no longer conforms to the Zodiac calendar. Leo is an equatorial constellation that can be seen by countries nearest the Equator.

The brightest star in Leo is Regulus. There are 28 Extrasolar Planets (Exoplanets) in this constellation that are detailed on this site. There is a dedicated page for exoplanets in Leo. The current largest star so far identified in the constellation of Leo is CW Leonis. For a list of named stars, that is stars that don't start HD or HIP, please visit Leo Star List Page.

Leo Star and Deep Space Object Count

The number of stars that have been catalogued as part of the Hipparcos Star Catalogue from Leo is 2128. The number of stars that are of magnitude 6.0 or lower in the constellation is 80. The number of stars in the constellation that make up the outline is 10.

There are 5 deep space objects that were identified by Charles Messier in this constellation. There are no non-Messier deep space objects in this constellation that are covered at present on this site.

Stars of Interest

The nearest star to Earth is Wolf 359 which is roughly about 7.86 Light Years from the Earth. The nearest star to the Earth with an exoplanet is HIP 57087 which is about 33.08 Light Years. The furthest star that can be located in the constellation is HIP 49204 which is located about 108721.1 Light Years away from the Sun. The furthest figure is derived from either the 1997 or 2007 Hipparcos star catalogue parallax figure and it has been known to produce distances that are wrong.

The dimmest star that can be seen in Leo with the naked eye is 35 Leonis. The dim star has an apparent magnitude of 5.95. The dimmest star that a person is able to see with their naked eye is 6.0 magnitude based on the table in the reference. Ref: University of Michigan

The caveat of these stars are that they are catalogued on this site. If you know of a star that is nearer or further then do let me know in the comments and I'll add it to the site. The stars mentioned are from the Hipparcos catalogue or have been added because of their special status.

Legend of the Constellation

Leo represents one of the labours of Hercules. He was ordered to do it as punishment for killing his wife. The lion was terrorising the area near Nemea. He killed the beast by strangling it or choking it to death. The skin was thickest of all known animals which meant all weapons were useless against it. Hercules managed to skin the Lion using tools provided to him by Athena.

Items of Interest

The brightest star in the constellation is Regulus, also refered to as Alpha Leonis. The star is multiple star system with four stars including the large blue star that makes up this system. It is one of a group of major stars known that is oval (egg) in shape. The others being Vega and Achernar. The fact that Regulus has orbiting stars could well explain its shape but Vega is a solo star.

Algieba is a double star system and also has a planet in orbit. This may sound a little like Tatooine in Star Wars where the desert planet has two stars. The bad news with Algieba is that the planet is a giant gas planet so there's no chance of living on or finding intelligent alien life there. Algieba is not the only star in the constellation to have planets in orbit, there is also Rasalas with a planet, still sadly inhospitable.

Wolf 359, Local Star

In astronomical speak, the constellation contains one of the closest stars to our own, Wolf 359. It is a small red dwarf star that is located to the bottom left of Regulus, near the border with the Sextants constellation. It lies a mere 7.86 light years away but unfortunately we don't have the space ships to travel that distance yet. Nearer stars include Proxima Centauri and Barnard's Star.

Meteor Showers

There are 33 Meteor Showers that occur during the year within this constellation based on information gathered from Adam Mickiewicz University (Poland). The ones listed as the ones I've been able to find a date range for. For others if you have the time, you can visit the AMU site, obtains the SL value then use IMO tables to calculate the date. A lot of the Meteor Showers are weak and you need to do a lot of stargazing to spot them.

NameActivityPeak ActivityClosest Star
Alpha Leonids13-Jan - 13-Feb24/31 JanRegulus
Delta LeonidsFeb 15 - Mar 10 Feb 25Zosma
Sigma Leonids9-Feb - 13 MarFeb 25 - 26Sigma Leonis
Rho LeonidsFeb 13 - Mar 13Mar 1 - 4Rho Leonis
Beta LeonidsFeb 14 - Apr 25Mar 19/21Denebola
Gamma LeonidsAug 14-Sept 12Aug. 25/26Algieba
LeonidsNovember 13-20Nov. 17/18Adhafera

Leo Facts


NameLeo
AbbreviationLeo
Is a Zodiac Sign Yes
Largest StarCW Leonis
Brightest StarRegulus
Area946.964 sq. deg.
Percentage of Night Sky2.3%
Size Position12th
Hemisphere Equatorial
Site Exoplanet Count28
Meteor Shower Count33
Nearest StarWolf 359
Nearest Star with Exoplanet(s)HIP 57087
Dimmest Star35 Leonis
Furthest StarHIP 49204
Bright Star Count80
Hipparcos Star Count2128
Main Star Count10
Messier Deep Space Object Count5
*Non-Messier Deep Space Object Count0
Bordering / Neighbouring / Surrounding ConstellationsLeo Minor
Cancer
Hydra
Sextans
Crater
Virgo
Coma Berenices
Ursa Major

*Note: The number of Non-Messier Deep Space Object Count relates to how many are covered on this site not how many there are.


Leo Constellation Map


Leo Constellation Star Map

The map was generated using Night Vision, an awesome free application by Brian Simpson.



List of Deep Space Objects (Galaxies, Nebulas, Supernovas, etc) in Leo


NameTypeDistanceDeclinationRight Ascension
Messier 105 (NGC3379)Elliptical Galaxy30,400-33,600 kly+12:3510h 47m 8
Messier 65 (NGC3623)Spiral Galaxy41,000-42,000 kly+13:0511h 18m 9
Messier 66 (NGC3627)Spiral Galaxy31,000-41,000 kly+12:5911h 20m 2
Messier 95 (NGC3351)Spiral Galaxy31,200-34,000 kly+11:4210h 44m 0
Messier 96 (NGC3368)Elliptical Galaxy28,000-34,000 kly+11:4910h 46m 8

Meteor Showers

Delta Leonids Meteor Shower

The Delta Leonids are one of a few meteor showers that are associated with the Leo, the Lion constellation. The major meteor shower for Leo is the Leonids which occur in November. This one is so called because the radiant point is near Zosma, also known as Delta Leonis star.

Associated CometTempel-Tuttle
Max Activity Date25 Feb
Activity PeriodFeb 15 - Mar 10
Right Ascension11:12
Declination16
Solar Longitude336
Alpha Radiant168
Speed23
Zenith Hourly Rate2

Leonids Meteor Shower

The Leonids Meteor Shower radiate point east of Adhafera , just around about where the Lion`s Head is. It is a heavy Meteor Shower compared to other meteor showers such as Piscis Austrinids.

The comet associated with the Meteor Shower is a short term comet which orbits the Sun every 33 years. Some comets journey can take thousands of years to complete an orbit which is why Tempel-Tuttle is referred to as a short term one. When the comet comes close to The Sun, the meteor shower can be quite spectacular such as in 1833.

Associated Comet55P/Tempel-Tuttle
Max Activity Date17 Nov
Activity PeriodNovember 13-20
Right Ascension153.8
Declination21.8
Solar Longitude235
Alpha Radiant153.8
Speed70
Zenith Hourly Rate100

Gamma Leonids Meteor Shower


Max Activity Date25 Aug
Activity PeriodAug 14-Sept 12
Right Ascension10
Declination20
Alpha Radiant10

Alpha Leonids Meteor Shower


Max Activity Date24 Jan
Activity Period13-Jan - 13-Feb

Sigma Leonids Meteor Shower


Associated Comet2002 GM5?
Max Activity Date25 Feb
Activity Period9-Feb - 13 Mar
Right Ascension199.5
Declination3.6
Solar Longitude23
Alpha Radiant199.5
Speed23

Beta Leonids Meteor Shower


Max Activity Date19 Mar
Activity PeriodFeb 14 - Apr 25

Rho Leonids Meteor Shower


Max Activity Date01 Mar
Activity PeriodFeb 13 - Mar 13
Right Ascension155.6
Declination5.2
Solar Longitude262.18
Alpha Radiant155.6
Speed66


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