The constellation Leo Minor, the small lion, derives its name from its location just north of Leo. This small constellation’s asterism is shaped like a kite. Although it is a newer constellation, designated by Johanne Hevelius in 1684, it is a favorite place to name a star among many cat lovers.
The lovely little lion shines most brightly overhead in February and can be observed from throughout the northern hemisphere and south to Australia!
The brightest star in the Leo Minor Constellation is Praecipua, an orange star with an apparent magnitude of 3.83. Three of the stars in Leo Minor are thought to have exoplanets, HD 87883, HD 82886, and Kelt-3.
Leo Minor also contains an unusual object known as Hanny’s Voorwerp. This rare quasar ionization echo was discovered in 2007 by school teacher Hanny van Arkel.
The constellation Leo Minor shares a border with the constellations Cancer, Leo, Lynx and Ursa Major.
Right Ascension: 10:24
Diameter (°): 12
Area (square °): 232
Opposition: Feb 23
Size Rank: 64th
Brightness Rank: 75th
Genitive: Leonis Minoris
Major or notable stars in Leo Minor
Praecipua – 46 Leonis Minoris
β Leonis Minoris (Beta Leonis Minoris)
21 Leonis Minoris
10 Leonis Minoris
37 Leonis Minoris
20 Leonis Minoris
11 Leonis Minoris
Deep Sky Objects in Leo Minor
Hanny’s Voorwerp and IC 2497
Mythology of the Constellation Leo Minor
The “Little Lion” was one of Hevelius’ creations, conjured up from unformed stars of the ancients scattered between Leo on the south and Ursa Major on the north.
Leo Minor was described as a lion because the ancients didn’t know what else to name the grouping of small stars so near the great lion. Leo Minor contains 53 main stars, including only one of the 3rd magnitude, and only 5 of the 4th magnitude.
Leo Minor remained undescribed for centuries. It is a relatively new constellation, having been added to our celestial maps only since the adoption of Greek notation in the 1600’s. These are referred to by the letters of the English alphabet instead of the Greek.
“The Smaller Lion now succeeds; a cohort Of fifty stars attend his steps; And three, to sigh unarm’d, invisible.” - The Geography of the Heavens - Elijah H. Burritt 1860
This is to say that Leo Minor does not conform to the shape of a lion, but rather is simply a small constellation near the Great Lion from which it took its name.