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EYES TO THE SKY: Leo the Lion’s graceful springtime stride

“Darkness is as essential to our biological welfare, to our internal clockwork, as light itself.” — Verlyn Klinkenborg

In evening twilight, sketched in stars, the figure of a regal lion strides near the top of the sky, south of zenith. The arc of Leo the Lion’s great head and mane, known as “the sickle,” is connected by an invisible line to the brightest star in the constellation, blue-white Regulus (1.35 magnitude), Latin for “little king.” Regulus, the 21st brightest of the stars, marks the Lion’s heart. The extension of the sickle to Regulus creates what is recognized as a backward question mark.

A right-angled triangle forms Leo’s tail end. In my mind’s eye, bright blue-white star Denebola (2.12m), Arabic for “lion’s tail,” marks the bushy, tufted tip of the Lion’s tail at the narrow end of the triangle. Note: The smaller the magnitude number, the brighter the star.

To see Leo as a distinct, singular figure, begin to look up in a southerly direction at about 8:45 p.m., when the Lion appears in the cerulean blue sky. On the 11th, a slender crescent moon shines to the far right of the Lion, above the western horizon. The waxing moon appears closer to Leo every night until, on the 15th, the half moon is positioned above Regulus.

As evening twilight deepens, Leo the Lion becomes part of a tapestry of stars as he moves in a westerly direction. In towns and cities, in the presence of light pollution, bright constellations may be the only star patterns that are easy to discern all night.

Find the Big Dipper high above and to the east, left, of Leo. Courtesy of EarthSky.org.

Locate the Big Dipper at the top of the sky, above Leo. Follow the arc of its handle to the brightest star in the springtime sky, orange Arcturus (minus 0.06m). Trace the trajectory of the arc, speeding to bluish Spica (0.96m), 16th brightest of the stars. As skies darken, admire Corvus the Crow soaring like a kite to the right of Spica.

View of Corvus the Crow to the right of bright star Spica. Stars of Leo the Lion above Corvus. Courtesy of Bob King, Astrobob.

Addendum

Sunrise is 5:37 a.m. on the 11th and 5:24 a.m. on the 24th. Sunset is 8:03 p.m. on the 11th and 8:16 p.m. on the 24th. Full moon occurs at 9:53 a.m. on Thursday, May 23. See the Full Moon at its fullest as it sets in the west at 5:02 a.m. and rises in the east at 8:56 p.m. that same day.

Keep your eclipse glasses/viewers for occasionally engaging in the wonder of gazing at the Sun.

Light pollution and how we can fix it: “Out of all the various pollutions humans create, light pollution gets the least attention. But light pollution is one of the most prevalent issues facing the developed and developing worlds today. It is an enormous waste of money, of resources, and more importantly, it is harming us.” Please see “Light Pollution: The Overuse and Misuse of Artificial Light at Night.”

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