Seeing double in the lion's shoulder

Apr 11

Written by:
4/11/2013 6:41 AM  RssIcon

Algieba in Leo is not hard to find from most locations.  At magnitude 2.2, it cuts through most light polluted areas, residing about 8 degrees to the northeast of Regulus in Leo the Lion.  Regulus us 77 light years from Earth - I suppose you could say that start isn't exactly in our cosmic neighborhood, but it is in the suburbs.  Algieba, at 130 light years, is in the far suburbs, but in the cosmic scheme of things, is still somewhat close - it's not like it's in the next country or anything.  

Strangely, Algieba in Arabic means "the forehead," so given our modern-day interpretation of Leo's shape, it obviously differed from how Ptolemy and Al-Sufi saw the lion.  As we see it today, Algieba is at the base of the "mane" of Leo, where the shoulder of the lion would be, with the "sickle" shape curving up and over to the west.

Leo the Lion with Regulus, Denebola and Algieba labelled

When viewed through a finderscope - or even sharp eyed viewers naked eye from darker locations - Algieba appears to be a double star, with 40 Leonis just below it to the south.  But this isn't the actual double - no, for that, a telescope is required.  The separation of these two stars is just over 4 arc seconds, so even very small telescopes can split it.  But, you'll need steady skies and some decent optics - along with excellent focus - to do so.

Give this pretty double star a look this week, especially if you're unable to find / observe the Leo Triplet of galaxies due to light pollution.  Algieba makes for a worthwhile consolation prize.  

M44 and M67 can still be seen near the meridian, this perhaps being a better week to go hunting for them on the loooooong star hop that it takes to track them down from Leo.

For more information on what you can find and see in the night sky every week, see the homepage of Eyes on the Sky.  Light pollution reduction begins with you, and you can take simple steps to reduce night sky glow without compromising safety.  


Algieba in Leo the Lion at 200x magnification

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The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.