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Learn the Constellations
The First Light Astronomy Kit from David Chandler Company
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The American Association of Amateur Astronomers

Learn the Constellations
The First Light Astronomy Kit from David Chandler Company

 Buy it Now or Find Out More

The Constellation Leo - The Lion

Mythology: Leo - The Lion 

The fist labor imposed on The Hero, Hercules, by mighty Zeus was to slay Leo, the frightful lion which roamed the forest of Nemaea. Hercules accomplished this task with the utmost of ease, simply strangling the fierce beast with his bare hands. From this point on, the courageous hero wore the lion's skin over his shoulders, assuring him eternal protection from harm. In memory of this dreadful battle, Zeus placed the proud and passionate lion in the heavens to eternally symbolize the challenges of kingship. The constellation of Leo contains the enormously bright star, Regulus, known as "the star of the king," perhaps referring to Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, who, during his lifetime, ruled the entire known world, and who was born during the Lion month.

Leo lies far enough away from the Milky Way to let us peer into extragalactic space. As such, we are no longer looking at objects that are "merely" a few hundred or thousand light years away. Instead, the distance to the galaxies of Leo is on the order of twenty to thirty MILLION light years. Thus, these objects in general are not flashy and splashy, but rather yield their detail in subtle ways. Besides adequate dark adaptation of one's eyes, the most useful technique for coaxing details out of galaxies is averted vision. By looking slightly away from your target while keeping your attention on it, features such as spiral arms and subtle mottling can become apparent where none was seen before. Galaxies force you to make observations the old fashioned way: you EARN them!


M-65 - This galaxy is relatively large and bright, with a bright center and a stellar core. It is elongated in the north-south direction, and appears about 8'x2' in extent. It is in the same low power field of view as the next two objects.

M-66 - Smaller than M-65, this galaxy is wider, about 6'x3', and brighter. It also has a bright core, and is extended in the southeastern direction. Averted vision at reveals some mottling and indications of spiral structure.

NGC-3628 - Large, 10'x2', and oriented northwest-southeast, this object is faint overall, but averted vision shows a spindle-like shape with hints of a dust lane on the southwest side. A very interesting galaxy.

M-95 - Round, about 3' in diameter with a bright core surrounded by a faint halo. This is a barred spiral, but on a recent less-than-perfect night in Oklahoma, I failed to see this structure.

M-96 - This galaxy is ovoid, 4'x3', extended north-south with a bright core. Its core is large and non-stellar, about 1' in diameter.

M-105 - An elliptical galaxy, this object is relatively bright and appears round, about 3' in diameter, and has a bright central core.

NGC-2903 - Large and relatively bright, this galaxy appears to be about 8'x4', extended NNE-SSW, with a large, 1'x1' core. Some mottling is noticeable, and a darker area was noted on the western side.

Gamma Leonis - This is a fine double star, although medium powers may be needed to split it. It shows a pretty pair of almost equally bright yellow stars.

Wolf 359 - This is a faint red dwarf star that would be unremarkable except that it is one of our closest neighbors in space. Only Alpha Centauri and Barnard's star are closer. It is one of the least luminous stars known, shining with the luminosity of about 1/63,000 that of the sun. It has only about 8% the mass of the sun and is approximately the size of Jupiter. To find it, use a chart such as that in Burnham's Celestial Handbook, and be patient: it shines at a magnitude of 13.6.

Article © Copyright Rick Raasch
© Copyright Edward P. Flaspoehler, Jr.

Messier Objects in Leo












11h 18.9

13d 6


8' X 1.5'





11h 20.2

13d 0


8' X 2.5'





10h 43.9

11d 42


4.4' X 3.3'





10h 46.7

11d 49


6' X 4'





10h 47.8

12d 35




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