Back to: Weekend Sky Report
February 28, 2020
Leo sweeps across the southern sky all night this time of year. In the evening, it’s to the east. To find it, look for the Big Dipper. It’ll be straight up and down with the cup at the top. Connect the two stars at the top that make up the end of the cup, and from that straight line, extend the line to the right toward the east, and when you hit the bright star Regulus, you’ve arrived. Regulus is the so-called “heart” of Leo the Lion, so once you find it, backtrack to identify the rest of the constellation. Leo depicts a lion laying down with its head up, so if Regulus is its heart, it marks the bottom of the constellation. To find its mane, look above it for a series of stars that form a backwards question mark with Regulus at the dot.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Regulus is the star of the show if you’ll pardon the 100% intended pun. It’s bright enough to see under urban skies, and it spins so fast that it’s not a perfect sphere. It’s more like an egg or pumpkin. It spins more than 150 times faster than the sun. The sun takes 27 days to make one rotation. Regulus does it in just 16 hours. And keep in mind, Regulus is around three times bigger than the sun, and almost 4 times as massive. In fact, if it spun just 10 percent faster, it would fly apart. Why does it spin so fast? Well, we really don’t know… yet.