Leo Minor is a northern constellation that walks the sky below Ursa Major’s hind legs and above Leo’s mane. Ptolemy, the 2nd century astronomer that cataloged many of today’s modern constellations, noted that the region of Leo Minor was undefined, and it remained that way until Johannes Hevelius first depicted it in 1687. Lying just outside the circle that defines circumpolar objects, this constellation can be seen most of the night year ’round, and it reaches its highest nightfall ascension in April. There are no Messier objects in Leo Minor, but there are several NGC objects available to the determined amateur astronomer’s telescope. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Minor
Sextans is Latin for astronomical sextant, and was so-named by Johannes Hevelius who frequently used this instrument for his observations. Sextans is very dim as its brightest star barely exceeds 5th magnitude – close to the limit that can be seen with the unaided eye. Sextans is located on the celestial equator below Leo’s front leg, and Hydra slithers along below it. This constellation reaches its highest nightfall ascendance in April, and it contains little else of interest to the amateur astronomer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sextans
Hydra is the largest of the 88 modern constellations, and was one of the 48 constellations cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. Hydra’s head lies at a point about halfway between Procyon in Canis Minor and Regulus in Leo. From there, it snakes (pun intended) south and eastward below Leo and Virgo, sharing two stars with Crater along the way, before ending just below the right scale of Libra. Hydra’s head reaches its highest nightfall ascension in March, but the tail does not reach that point until three months later in June. The best over all view of Hydra is in late April. Hydra is home to three Messier objects: M83 (the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy), M68 (a globular star cluster), and M48 (an open star cluster). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydra_(constellation)
Crater is Latin for cup, and this constellation represents the cup of Apollo in Greek mythology. This is one of the 48 constellations identified by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. It is located below Leo’s feet, and behind Virgo’s back in the southern sky, sharing two stars with the constellation Hydra. This constellation reaches its highest nightfall ascension in April. Aside from a handful of NGC objects that are a challenge for amateur astronomers, there is not much to see in this constellation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crater_(constellation)
Coma Berenices represents the hair of Berenice II, queen of Eqypt and wife of 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. Surprisingly, this constellation is not one of the 48 that 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy cataloged. As a naked eye object, this constellation is not much to behold. Its three main stars are rather dim, and the form of the constellation is rather nondescript. It can be found nestled among the intersection of Leo, Virgo, and Bootes, and it reaches its highest nightfall ascension in May.
With binocular or telescopic aid, Coma Berenices is a wonder to behold. Most notable is the large Coma Berenices Open Cluster (Melotte 111). This star cluster is comprised of about fifty stars that are spread over a five-degree (the width of ten full moons) area of the sky. To look at Coma Berenices with binoculars is to see this cluster. This constellation is also home to the northern portion of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster where several Messier galaxies can be found, to include M85, M88, M91, M98, M99, and M100. There are two other named galaxies in Coma Berenices, the Black Eye galaxy (M64) and the Needle galaxy (NGC 4565). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coma_Berenices
Look for this meteor shower at around midnight on these two nights. The radiant (the apparent point of origin) is in the constellation Leo, which will be high overhead at midnight. Interestingly, at any given time of the year, the Earth is moving toward whatever stars happen to be directly overhead at midnight, and it “smashes” into the debris field that crosses the Earth’s orbit and creates the shower.
The Leonid shower of 2002 was the best meteor shower that I have ever witnessed. I went out at around midnight near the peak, and the origin was nearly directly overhead. I could see about six to eight meteors per minute that seemed to fly out of the origin in all directions. While lying on my back and looking straight up at the origin the visual effect was very much like the old Windows screen saver that gave the appearance of flying through a star field. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonids
Virgo, the virgin, is one of the zodiacal constellations, is one of the 48 constellations cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and is the 2nd largest constellation in the sky. It can be found at is highest point in the sky at nightfall in March. Virgo is located on the ecliptic, flanked by Leo and Libra. It can also be found by following the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle through Arcturus in Bootes to Spica (Alpha Virginis), Virgo’s brightest star. Some of Virgo’s remaining stars can be difficult to see in light-polluted urban skies because this is not a particularly bright constellation. Within Virgo is one of the two points where the ecliptic intersects the celestial equator. The moment of the Sun’s southward crossing of the celestial equator as it moves along the ecliptic is the Autumnal Equinox, which marks the first day of Fall.
The Virgo Cluster is a very large scale object spanning about eight degrees and containing 1,300 or more individual galaxies. The cluster is centered in Virgo, and extends northward into Coma Berenices. The member galaxies that were cataloged by Charles Messier are M49, M58, M59, M60, M61, M84, M86, M87, M89, and M90. Many other galaxies in this cluster have NGC designations. The Sombrero Galaxy, M104, is a very unusual galaxy in Virgo that is not a member of the Virgo Cluster. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgo_(constellation)
Leo, the lion, is a distinctive zodiacal constellation that was cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. It is located on the ecliptic between Cancer and Virgo, and can be found below the bowl of the Big Dipper with both constellations arriving at their highest nightfall ascension in April. Leo closely resembles a crouching lion with its rather distinct backward question mark, or sickle asterism. This constellation features the bright star Regulus (Alpha Leonis) at the back of the lion’s head.
The most famous deep sky object in Leo is The Leo Triplet is a close grouping of the galaxies M65, M66 (displayed) and NGC3628 that can be seen together in a single telescopic field of view. For those observing with telescopes, there are several other galaxies cataloged by Charles Messier are located in Leo, to include M65, M66, M95, M96 and M105. Leo is also home to the famous Leonids meteor shower that occurs during November, peaking at about 10 meteors per hour on November 14th and 15th. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_(constellation)
Cancer, the crab, is a zodiacal constellation of rather dim stars that can be difficult to see in light polluted skies. It is one of the 48 constellations cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. Cancer is located on the ecliptic, half way between Pollux in Gemini and Regulus in Leo, and is highest in the sky at nightfall in March. If Cancer’s stars are not visible, try using binoculars, and then look again once the various stars in the constellation have been located. Cancer is home to two Messier objects, M44 (the Beehive Cluster, or Praesepe) and M67. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_(constellation)