International Star Registry

All Constellations

Leo - Lion

Leo is the largest and lowest of a group of five or six bright stars which form a figure somewhat resembling a sickle in the neck and shoulder of the lion.

Leo is an easy constellation to locate. The pointer stars of the Big Dipper extended south approximately locates Regulus, the bright blue-white star in the chest of the lion. There is a meteor shower, Leonids, in mid November from the gamma star, the lion’s mouth.

According to Greek fable, this lion represents the formidable animal which roamed the forests of Nemaea near Corinth, Greece. It was slain by Hercules and placed by Zeus among the stars in commemoration of the dreadful conflict. Some writers have applied the story of the 12 labors of Hercules to the progress of the sun through the 12 signs of the ecliptic; as the combat of that celebrated hero with the lion was his first labor, they have placed Leo as the first sign.

The figure of the lion, however, was on Egyptian charts long before the fable of Hercules.

In hieroglyphic writing the lion was an emblem of violence and fury. In the zodiac it signified the intense heat the sun created when it entered that part of the ecliptic. The Egyptians were much annoyed by lions that left the desert during the hot summer and hunted the banks of the Nile at its greatest elevation. It was, therefore, natural for their astronomers to place the lion in the zodiac.

The figure of Leo much as we know it is in all the Hindu and Egyptian zodiacs. The overflowing of the Nile, which the Egyptians regularly and anxiously expected every year, took place when the sun was in this sign. Accordingly they paid more attention to this sign than to any other.

In the Hebrew zodiac, Leo is assigned to Judah, upon whose standard a lion traditionally is painted according to several passages of Hebrew writings. On the other hand, Leo is assigned to Simon in the Encyclopedia Judaica.

Christians of the middle ages tried to replace the mythological characters of the constellation with biblical connotations. Leo was subsequently and separately notated as one of Daniel’s Lions or as Doubting Thomas.
Right Ascension 10:37
Diameter (°)24
Area (square °)947
Opposition Feb 26
Size Rank 12nd
Brightness Rank 16th