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Leo - the Lion


Mythology - The Egyptians quite probably based the figure of the Sphinx on this constellation and it was aligned to the helical (dawn) rising of Regulus at the time of the IVth dynasty. According to Greek legend, Hera ordered the creation of Leo by the moon, Selene, who put the lion in a cave in the Nemean Mountains. The first of Heracles' twelve labours was to slay this fearsome beast. After killing the lion with his bare hands, he wore its skin as his symbol.
Stars - Regulus (alpha leonis), the “heart of the lion” is a wide double star, but is more interesting because it lies on the ecliptic - the plane containing the Sun’s orbit. This means that from time to time it is occulted by the Moon or planets. Such occultations have told astronomers much about planetary rings and
atmospheres. Algieba (gamma leonis) is a telescopic double comprising two orange stars of magnitudes 2 and 3 respectively. They can be observed in daytime due to their colour contrast with the sky. R leonis is a mira type variable star that oscillates between mag 4.4 and 11.3 over 310 days.
Deepsky - The constellation of Leo houses many interesting galaxies, six of which you can see with large binoculars on a clear night since they are all 9th magnitude. M65 and M66 lie just under the rear leg. NGC
2903 lies at the end of the “sickle” shape of Leo’s head. M95, M96 and M105 lie under the lion’s body.
Visibility - Leo is visible for most of the Spring but is best seen from April until June