Constellation of the Month: The lion sleeps tonight

David Baumgartner writes about what to look for when viewing the Leo constellation.

This article was contributed by resident David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.

Many times you look up at a constellation and try to make out what were the Greeks, or whoever named the constellations,  thinking of? Most of the time they have a theme or story to tell and make the best out of what’s up there to match their story. I like to think that if I were the first to see the Big Dipper with the opportunity to give this group of stars a name, it wouldn’t be a bear. For whoever saw a bear with a long tail? And that goes for the Little Dipper as well. The English didn’t do much better calling it the ”Plough.” Now comes “Leo the Lion,” one of the easiest to pick out in the sky, because it really looks like a lion—or at least you can easily imagine it that way. 

The bright star, Regulus, is the lion’s heart. Above it is a C-shaped curve of stars; his mane and head. He is facing to the right. To the left of the head you come to a large triangle of fairly bight stars; they represent the end of his back and his tail. The tail star is the second brightest in the constellation after Regulus, and has a name, Denebola. Yeah, that would have been my choice of names.

Leo is another constellation of the zodiac: that is, the ecliptic passes through it. Regulus is very close to the ecliptic, so the moon and planets pass near it and sometimes even in front of it. 

But if you have a telescope, the most interesting star in Leo is the second one above Regulus, where the lion’s back joins onto his mane. This star, called Algieba, is actually a double star. Instead of a planet going around a star, a star is going around another star. Each of the stars could still have planets revolving around them. Now wouldn’t that look strange seeing two or more suns in our sky? I’m certain we wouldn’t have many dark nights. Over 50% of the stars are multiple stars. Our Sun, thankfully, is not one of them.

Give the “King of the Jungle” a look-see some evening, and if you have a six inch or larger telescope you can see a barrage of galaxies in the area, very interesting to see. 

Clear skies.

What’s up tonight?

April 17: Moon passes 0.1° south of Mars

April 20: First Quarter Moon

April 22: Lyrid meteor shower peaks

April 26: Full Moon

April 27: Moon is at perigee (222,064 miles from Earth)


David Baumgartner

I am a local fella. Local schools from Fremont, Sacred Heart, Santa Anita, Hollister High, to San Benito Jr. College (Now Gavilan). Then joined the US Air Force where I specialized in Airborne Radar. Married my high school sweetheart JoAnne., shortly after three children arrived; Cindi, Michael, and Lisa. Somehow we ended up with nine Grandchildren.  Went on to San Luis Obispo, Questa, Colleges, and on to Univ. of New Mexico. Came back to Hollister. Opened up Three Pet Stores; Dave's Aquarium Pets & Supplies in SLO, Watsonville, and Hollister. The family spent two and a half years running a ranch up in Oregon. Made our way back to Hollister.  Got my Real Estate License in 1982, opened my own office in 93'. In the mean time raised Swans and revitalized my old hobby of Astronomy.  In 2001 I was named Chamber of Commence Man of the Year. I think I was the only one nominated. I don't care, I'm taking it. In December of 2018 I retired. Not sure if I was forced out or not. None the less, I am retired and I think it was time. Now the last thing I have to do is buy a coffin. I hear COSCO sells them now. But the only drawback is; you have to buy them in lots of six.  I guess I could buy them for the whole family. Not that funny, but thrifty.