April 2014 Constellation of the Month: Leo
First, find the Big Dipper (Ursa Major). Imagine a line extending from the bottom of the Dipper's bowl southward to the horizon. About halfway to the horizon is the constellation Leo, the Lion. In case it's easier to remember, start with the two stars at the right edge of the Dipper. If you follow the line they make to the North, you'll find the North Star. Go the opposite way (South) and you'll find Leo.
Traditionally, the head of the Lion is pictured as being outlined by the Sickle, and its hindquarters by the triangle. Some people, however, have an easier time picturing the
triangle as a head and the Sickle as a tail.
Leo's brightest star, Regulus, is at the dot of the question mark (bottom of the handle of the Sickle). It's actually a 3-star system with the blue-white main star about 140 times as bright as our sun, which is orbited by a pair of much fainter, much lower-mass red dwarfs. There is also evidence of a 4th star, which has not been directly observed.
Just below the triangle is a pair of spiral galaxies, M65 and M66, which can be seen in a small telescope – like the ones the Discovery Center brings to its astronomy events. Every November, there is a meteor shower in which the meteors appear to be coming from the direction of Leo. So, the shower is called the Leonid shower.