The Constellations Lauren Dobson

Leo is one of a small hand full of constellations which look truly like their namesake.

Leo is a one of the 12 zodiacal constellations, and represents a lion. Leo is made up of two patterns of stars which our mind connects together to make a lion, so this constellation was named fittingly. As you can see above, the first part of Leo is backwards question mark, and this part of Leo is supposed to form the head and mane. The second pattern is almost a rectangle, and then a triangle branching off the back of the rectangle. This part of Leo represents the lions body, and hindquarters, along with its tail. Leo is a fairly simplistic constellation, but still a beautiful constellation at that.

Leo appears in the sky in the South in April, and May making it a spring constellation.

Leo's brightest, and most famous stars is Regulus. Regulus is a blue, white star, and is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. This star rises due east, and the rest of the Leo constellation, the body, follows it into the night sky within a few hours. Regulus also helps make up the sickle of Leo which outlines his head, and mane(shown in image below). Regulus is a star 79 million light years away from earth, making it one of the farther stars found in Leo.

About two hours after Regulus rises, if you look east it is mostly likely you will find the body of Leo, and at the back end of Leo you will find Denebola. The latin root which Denebola is derived from means "tail of the lion" which is an accurate name for this star considering its place in Leo's constellation. Denebola is a fairly bright star in the sky, and the second brightest star in Leo behind Regulus. This star is considered a close neighbor to earth only being 36 light years away. In retrospect, this star is fairly bright taking into consideration that the human eye is able to see it which means it is at least 10 times brighter than the sun. The science behind why Denebola is so bright is quite fascinating, the main reason is Denebola's mass. Being twice as heavy as the sun makes Denebola fuse the hydrogen in it's core at a much faster rate. In turn making its surface thousands of degrees hotter compared to the sun. Thus, Denebola's massive size, and extremely high temperature attributes to its remarkable brightness. To follow, Denebola's current status is that it does not have any known planets orbiting it, however astronomers continue to search.

The Leo Triplet: Bright galaxies found in the Leo Constellation.

The Leo Trio is made up of three galaxies m65, m66, and NGC- 3628. The most intriguing of the three is NGC- 3628 which is the galaxy on the left side, flipped sideways compared to the other two messier in the image above. M65, and m66 are some of the brighter messier's known, and are both about 32.8 million light years away from the earth. M65 is about 94,000 light years in diameter, and m66 is about 87,000 million light years in diameter. Both of the galaxies are classified as spiral galaxies, and were founded in 1870.

NGC-3682 -- known as the Hamburger Galaxy

NGC-3682 is a mysterious galaxy according to astronomers. The basic facts about this galaxy are that it is a spiral galaxy like the two other galaxies which make up The Leo Trio, and being a spiral galaxy means that it's almost like a pinwheel that spans out for at least 100 light years. Additionally, out perspective allows astronomers to see it on its edge which means they can see streaks of light with lanes of dark dust running down the middle of the galaxy. NGC-3682 was discovered in 1784, and is an estimated 35 million light years away, and its tidal tail is about 300,000 light years in length. The gravitational encounters with other galaxies have triggered over millions of new star births on the galaxy's center. The conspicuous feature in the galaxy is a stream of dust, and gas located along the edge of its spiral arms which transects the galaxy. This board of dust appears twisted because of the neighboring galaxies gravitational pulling it. This tail contains enough gas to make half a billion stars as large as the sun, and has given birth to an estimated amount of millions of stars in several clusters.

Leo- the Nemean Lion

The mythology behind Leo is that he was a Nemean Lion who was a feared animal since he would kill anyone who would come near him. The other factors which contributed to his fearsomeness was his size, strength, and fierce look compared to other lions. Along with his skin which was his most important trait, Nemean's skin was impenetrable which made him much harder to kill. He dwelled in a cave, and that is where Hercules slew him. Hercules found a way around Nemean's impenetrable skin by strangling him to death, and then used one of his claws to skin Nemean, and wore it as a cloak to remind Hercules of his strength, and his first labor completed out of the 12. The cloak also served as protection, and made Hercules much more fearsome.

One of my personal favorites, and an extremely popular constellation in general.

Orion the hunter, is usually depicted holding a sword, and a shield or animal skin depending on the interpretation of the constellation. The constellation itself contains two of the brightest stars in the night sky, and they are located on opposite sides of the rectangle or Orion's body. Betelgeuse is an orange, red bright star located in the northeastern corner, and Rigel is a blue star located at the southwester corner.

Betelgeuse: A Red Supergiant

Betelgeuse is classified as a red supergiant, and is 300 times the Suns diameter, and there is still discussion of a larger diameter. To be a supergiant, is to be included in the largest category of stars. Betelgeuse is estimated to give off 100,000 times more energy compared to the sun, and to be 20 times more massive than the sun as well. At the end of Betelgeuse's life, and it dies this star will create a massive fireball, and this fireball will outshine billions of regular stars only for a short period of time though.

The reason behind Betelgeuse's' secret is gravity. Gravity plays a huge role in squeezing the stars core tightly which heats it to billions of degrees inside there. A stellar blast furnace consumes it's original hydrogen fuel in a hurry fusing atoms together to make neutrons which will produce incredible amounts of energy in the process. Fusing then takes place in another couple places with helium to make more, and heavier elements like oxygen, and carbon at first, but then works its way up to iron. When the star has reached this point in its life it is no longer producing energy in its care. Without reactions in its core to push outward gravity quickly causes the star to collapse which forms a neutron star. This kind of star is a massive explosive and rips through the stars outer layer castling them into space at few perfect of speed of light. This is a titanic blast known as a supernova. Betelgeuse is predicted to be soon on the astronomical scale anytime in the next hundred thousand years.


Rigel is classified as a blue supergiant, which means it is much bigger, and heavier than the sun. Its surface is so much hotter than that of the suns which makes it shine blue, and white. These high temperatures also create ultraviolet energy, and cause sunburn along with a lot of other problems. The ultraviolet, visible light, and other wavelengths which come off of Rigel are tens of thousands of times brighter than that of which come off the sun. Depending on Rigel's distance away from Earth, but it has potential to be 100,000 times brighter than the sun. Therefore, a planet would have to be billions of miles away to have safe living conditions, yet even then the thick ozone layer would not work forever, and would stop being a suitable environment as a longterm home because in a few million years it will likely blast itself into bits as a supernova. The energy and the wave shock would make quick work of life on the planet, and around it. This is also known for being arguably the brightest star in the night sky.

m42 -- The Great Orion Nebula

M42, or the Great Orion Nebula is a cloud of gas and dust thats like a giant fluorescent bulb. This messier is a part of a giant complex of clouds of interstellar gas and dust, and when pockets of these materials are collapse they give birth to new stars. The Hubble Telescope appears to reveal about 3,000 stars in Orion Nebula alone some of which could be as little as 10,000 years old. The visual nebula is turbulent gas which means it is energized by the trapezium. Trapezium is a cluster of hot bright stars at its center. Ultraviolet energy comes from the stars strip's electrons which means the atoms in the Nebula, and when electrons lick with atoms, the atom emits light.

Orion- the hunter

Orion has two stories which go along with the ultimate ending of his life, both depend upon whether who you interpret as his parents. One most common story is that he was the Sun of Neptune the god of the sea, and had the mother of the Great Huntress Queen Euryale of the Amazon. Orion was said to have inherited her talent, and gift of being a natural hunter, and he himself became the greatest hunter in the world. Unfortunately, not all men know how to stay modest with all of that greatness, and Orion became boastful, and egotistic with his immense straight and power. With immense strength, comes immense ego. He boasted that he could kill any beast on earth, and in response to his vainly, a small scorpion song and killed him, taking away his pride. The picture above is not drawn to scale, the scorpion was small in the version explained.

Cancer is a faint constellation in the sky because it is made up of faint stars.

Cancer is a part of the Zodiac Constellations, and plays a small role in the zodiac constellations, and sky lore. Cancer is the exact opposite of the two constellations motion before, unlike those cancer is a faint, and small constellation which makes it hard to spot in the night sky without visual aid. However, Cancer does contain some interesting galaxies, and a planetary system unlike the to before.

m44- The Beehive Cluster

The Beehive cluster is the most prominent feature in Cancer, it is also know as m44. This cluster is 600 light years away, and 10 light years wide. To the unaided human eye it looks small like a fuzzy patch of light in the night sky, or like a tiny cloud floating through the stars. However, when looking at it through a telescope reveals this small speck is actually a cluster of hundreds of individual stars. All of these stars belong to the big beehive family, and have all formed from the same gas, and dust. The most recent estimate puts their age around 600-700 million years which makes them four billion years younger than the sun. The way astronomers figure out the age of different clusters is by comparing what kind of stars they do have and what kinds they don't have. In this cluster there are none of the hottest, most massive, or the brightest stars in the sky those are the stars who burn through their nuclear fuel quickly, and disappear quickly too, within tens of hundreds of millions of years. This places a lower limit on the clusters age itself, and the clusters current members are faint cosmic embers known as red dwarfs, and a third are only somewhat like the sun, and only a hand full are brighter, and more massive. Those few will burn out soon on the astronomical scale.


M67 is a much older messier than the Beehive cluster, and lurks in cancer with a low profile. Even though they are not similar in age, m44, and m67 are more alike than different. M67 age is about the approximate ago of the suns age. Normally clusters do not survive more than a few trips around the center of their galaxy because of the gravity of other stars, and giant clouds of gas, and dust pulled apart. However m67 is about 4 to 5 billion years old, and this cluster has survived for so long because it resides in the outer part of the galaxy, where fewer stars, and gas can disturb it.

Planetary System 55 Cancri is a system that consists of 5 known planets with perhaps a few more awaiting discovery. This system is about 40 light years away from Earth, and is faintly visible to the unaided eye, although you would still need help finding it. This system consists of two wide spaced stars one is similar to the sun, and hosts a lot of planets. The inner most of the planets is a Super Earth which means it is only q few times heavier than our world, which means this planets is one of the lightest planets discovered yet. Most planets are bigger and heavier, but none of the planets are in the stars inhabitable zone. This mean the right amount of distance away from the star at which liquid water could exist on the surface, so this makes all the planets not an adequate replacement for earth.

Mythology behind Cancer

Cancer adds a small inessential part to the story of Hercules, according to this the story goes: while Hercules was tackling the multi headed monster Hydra, the goddess Hera sent a giant crab to distract him. Sadly, for the crab, thought it was not much of a challenge. Hercules crushed it quickly, and then returned to killing his monster. Hera then places the remains of the crab in the sky, but only gave it faint stars because of its failure.

Hercules killing the monster, after killing the giant crab.

Work Cited

"M65, M66 & NGC 3628 ("Trio in Leo")." N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.

"Orion, the Hunter." Orion, the Hunter | StarDate Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.

"Leo, the Lion." Leo, the Lion | StarDate Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.

"Cancer, the Crab." Cancer, the Crab | StarDate Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.

"Leo History." Leo History. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.

"Leo." The Mythology of the Constellations: Leo. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.

"Orion." The Mythology of the Constellations: Orion. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.


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