According to mythology, the Nemean Lion named Leo had a reputation of terrorizing and preying upon people to satisfy its appetite. This man-eating beast was indestructible as weapons comprised of bronze, stone and even iron could not penetrate its skin. But the lion was no match for the mighty Hercules who strangled Leo and placed him in the night sky to show off his conquest.
After a long cold winter, we now get to enjoy some spring observing. Gemini the Twins in one of Ptolemy’s 48 original constellations and in fact the word Gemini comes from the Latin meaning “twins”. Dominated by the stars Castor and Pollux, Gemini’s outlines twin figures. Mythology states Pollux is the son of the mighty Zeus whereas Castor was a mere mortal. As the story goes, they were placed in the sky to be together for all time. Although the two stars might appear close in brightness, they physical properties are quite different.
Step outside on these cool autumn nights about an hour after sunset and look up. Cygnus the Swan also known as the Northern Cross is well positioned overhead and easily recognized. The faint glow of the Milky Way is the collective glow of millions of stars too dim to be distinguished individually by the human eye. This stellar cloud of stars is perfectly positioned along the long neck of the swan which is the perfect guide when attempting to glimpse the galactic arms of our Milky Way Galaxy from light polluted suburban skies.
Moving eastward from the great Teapot of Sagittarius, we continue our voyage along the ecliptic to Capricornus – The Goat. This constellation takes up 414 square degrees of sky making it the 40th largest constellation. To date – nine planets have been found orbiting five stars in Capricorn. The stars that make up the asterism are of average brightness, running in the range of magnitude 2.8 to 4.5.