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Leo After Sunset

image of Regulus in night sky
Tom Westre

After sunset this spring the constellation Leo can be seen.

Leo represents a lion the king of the beasts.

The brightest star in Leo is called Regulus.   

The name Regulus fits its location in Leo.

As far back as 3,000 BC the ancient Persians listed Regulus as one of four “royal stars.”  The name Regulus in Latin means “little king.” In Arabia, Regulus was  “the kingly one.” The Chinese referred to it as the “Yellow Emperor.”  The Babylonians called “the King.”  In India is was referred to as “the Mighty.”

Regulus appears as a single star to the human eye but it has three unseen companion stars, two of which can be seen in telescopes. 

Regulus is only ½ degree off the ecliptic which means the moon often passes in front of it.

Regulus is much larger than the Sun. While the Sun rotates once in 24 days at the equator Regulus takes only 16 hours giving it an egg shape.

On a clear night you can find Regulus at the base of the asterism known as the Sickle of Leo which looks like a backward question mark of stars that form the lion’s main  with Regulus at the bottom.

For the Cache Valley Astronomical Society, this is Tom Westre.