Leo is one of the easier constellations to pick out of the sky, as it actually looks like what it is named for, a lion. Leo rises in the early AM at this time of year, being fully above the eastern horizon about two hours before sunrise. Finding Leo is easy using the pointer stars in the Big Dipper. If you are not familiar with the pointer stars, they are the two stars on the outer edge of bowl of the Big Dipper, Dubhe and Merak. They are called the pointer stars because if you draw an imaginary line through them from the bottom of the bowl to the top and beyond, you run into the north star, Polaris. Likewise, if you draw an imaginary line the other way, from the top of the bowl through the bottom and beyond, you run into the constellation Leo.
Currently the planet Venus is in Leo, a little more than a hand-width below the belly of the sitting lion (check out this previous blog post for instructions on how to measure distances in the sky with your hands). Venus will be easy to pick out, as it is the brightest object in this portion of the sky. The crescent Moon will be moving through Leo over the next two mornings as well, first appearing on the 13th about 8° above Venus, then about 7° below Venus on the morning of the 14th.
If you find yourself up about an hour or two before sunrise over the next two days, look for Leo, Venus, and the Moon, it will be a lovely sight!
M. Colleen Gino, MRO Assistant Director of Outreach and Communications