January 15, 2021: Leo the Lion is tilted westward before sunrise during mid-January mornings.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:16 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:45 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
With Venus becoming difficult to see, as was outlined in yesterday’s note, other celestial gems are in the sky before sunrise.
Read about Venus during January.
An hour before sunrise, Leo the Lion is tilted toward the western horizon from the west-southwest sky. The celestial creature is made of a backwards question mark – the Sickle of Leo – and a triangle.
The sickle – a farm implement for cutting grain – seems to make the head and chest of the westward-facing lion.
The bright star Regulus – “the prince,” as described by George Davis – is the bright star at the bottom of the sickle. At this hour Regulus is about one third of the way up in the west-southwest.
The Lion’s haunches are formed by a smaller triangle to the upper left of Regulus. The tail – Denebola – is the highest star in this view.
With early sunsets, the constellation comes into view over 5 hours after sunset in the eastern sk. Leo follows the great winter contingent that includes Orion and Sirius. It is high in the south after midnight and at its westward tilt before sunrise.
During latter winter evenings, Leo is in the southeast after sunset. By late April Regulus is high in the south when night falls.
Use a binocular to amplify the distinctly blue color of Regulus. At about 80 light years away, it is over 100 times brighter than our sun. The star is not much larger than our sun. To shine with its blue intensity and with a visibility over 80 light years as one of the bright stars in the sky, Regulus consumes its nuclear fuel at a much greater rate than our sun.
Take a look for the celestial lion in the western sky before sunrise.
If you want to investigate more about star names, read this reprint from a 1944 article by George Davis, Jr.
For a nicely presented view of the constellations, read The Friendly Starsby Martha Evans Martin and Donald Howard Menzel.
Read more about the planets during January.
February 19-21: The bright moon moves through the constellation Taurus. Use a binocular to see the starry background with the moon.
February 18, 2021: The moon, waxing toward its First Quarter moon phase, is high in the southwest after sunset. Planet Mars is 3.8° to the upper right of the moon. Mars is parading eastward compared to the starry background in eastern Aries as it heads toward the Taurus border.
February 6, 2021: Before sunrise, look east-southeast for the waning crescent moon. It is 4.5° to the upper left of Antares – the rival of Mars.