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.
May 28, 2021: This evening Mercury passes brilliant Venus for the second of three conjunctions during this evening apparition of the second planet from the sun. Use a binocular about 45 minutes after sunset to see the speedy planet 0.4° to the lower left of Venus. This is the closest visible conjunction until 2033.
May 24, 2021: Morning planets Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. In the evening sky, brilliant Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Mars line up along the solar system’s plane. The bright moon is in the southeast near Zubenelgenubi, “the southern claw.”
May 23, 2021: Five bright planets parade across the sky. Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise in the southeastern sky. The star Fomalhaut is becoming visible below bright Jupiter and near the horizon. After sundown, Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the western sky. The bright moon is in the southeastern sky during the nighttime hours.
May 22, 2021: Five planets parade across the sky. Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Evening Star Venus, Mercury and Mars are in the western sky after sunset. A bright moon is in the southeastern sky.
May 21, 2021: Three bright planets are dancing in the western sky after sundown. Evening Star Venus is entering the sky for a months-long residency after its solar conjunction two months ago. Mercury is heading for a conjunction with Venus after its best evening appearance of the year. Mars continues its eastward march in Gemini, but time is running out on its appearance as it approaches brighter evening twilight and a conjunction with Venus.