In Like a LION!!

Image I created of the constellation Leo over the Primland sky.

Image I created of the constellation Leo over the Primland sky.

We’ve all heard the expression “March goes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb,” meaning that the month begins with ice and snow, (like a lion ravaging the land), weather but eventually ends with gentle, temperate weather. Just a few days ago, I saw the constellation Leo perched as it were above the skies of Primland, ready to devour the Moon! Seeing this outside, made me wonder if the expression actually has to do with astronomy in addition to the weather.

current night sky over Virginia Beach, VA

As luck would have it, the constellation Leo begins to show its face around March 1st in the eastern sky, while the lamb constellation Aries appears directly opposite of it to the west! As the month continues, Aries rises in the East while Leo sinks int the west. So maybe this expression was designed to help people track the movements of the seasons by watching the stars. For more info on this expression, click here for a fascinating blog about the origins of idioms and common expressions. Also, for a funny cartoon from an astronomer who supports this theory, click here.
Whether or not the expression is directly connected with the constellation, March is a great month for viewing the constellations of the Zodiac, so I thought I’d continue in the vein I started last week, and write a post about another zodiac constellation- Leo the Lion.

The Facts Are These:

The Constellation Leo

The Constellation Leo

Leo has 9 stars that resemble a long scythe.

Leo was one of the first constellations ever discovered, dating back to the ancient Mesopetomians.

Right ascension– 11 hours

Declination– +15

Area– 947 degrees.
Its brightest star is called “Regulus”, the King Star, which is 350 times brighter, and nearly 200 times faster than our Sun!

Leo has a number of galaxies in its constellation including NGC 2903, M65, M66, 95 & 96.

You can find Leo most nights by following the “pointer stars” at the front of the cup of the Big Dipper.

Western Myths about Leo

Greek Pottery fragment of Hercules killing the Nemean Lion ca. 520-500 BC.

Greek Pottery fragment of Hercules killing the Nemean Lion ca. 520-500 BC.

Greek– In Greek Mythology, the hero Hercules was charged with defeating the Nemean Lion, a fearsome beast that terrorized the Greek town of Nemea in Corinth. The lion’s hide was so tough, not even arrows could penetrate it. Hercules defeated the monster by throttling it with his bare hands. Afterwards he wore the animal’s skin around his neck as a form of armor.

Leo of course is also an astrological sign in the west associated with power, majesty, pride, and courage. I will go further into the astrological sign of Leo later on in the “This Month In Astronomy” page.

Chinese

Yellow Dragon, Beihai Park, Beijing

Yellow Dragon, Beihai Park, Beijing

In China, Leo is revered not as a Lion, but a dragon. Specifically, Leo is associated with Xuanyang, the legendary Yellow Dragon. Emperor Huangdi named his dynasty after this winged beast, and in one Chinese myth, the Yellow Dragon, (along with three other companions), helped form the four life-giving rivers of China.

Like the lion, the dragon Xuanyang is also an astrological sign on the Chinese calendar, and like Leos, Dragon-signs are people of immense power and courage (while also being a bit hard-headed. Last year was the official “Year of the Dragon,” on the Chinese calender, which cycles through signs every twelve years. Each year of the dragon corresponds to the five Chinese elements– wood, earth, fire, wind, water, and metal. Last year was the Water Dragon, and in 2025, the Wood Dragon will smile upon us.

So I hope you’ve enjoyed this partial look at the proudest constellation of all. Be sure to watch Leo throughout the month, until Aries takes center stage; a reminder to all of us that all pride goes before the fall.

Happy Stargazing!

Sources

http://www.space.com/16845-leo-constellation.html

http://www.allthesky.com/constellations/leo/

Unrelated, but still cool: http://earthsky.org/human-world/when-will-the-age-of-aquarius-begin

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