Hunt the Lion Cub tonight

It may be difficult, but tonight is a great opportunity to seek on the dim constellation Leo Minor.
By | Published: January 11, 2019 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
The simple, faint constellation Leo Minor the Lion Cub is nestled between Ursa Major the Great Bear, which sits above it, and Leo the Lion, which sits directly beneath it.
Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division/Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever seen the constellation Leo Minor the Lion Cub? If you answered, “No,” tonight could be your night.

To seek out the small and faint constellation, head out around midnight local time. But don’t try before that because the Moon will still be in the sky.

Unfortunately, Leo Minor is so faint that you’ll have to find two other celestial signposts — the Big Dipper and Leo the Lion — and work from them.

The Big Dipper will lie high in the northeast and Leo low in the east. Draw a 45°-long line from Merak (Beta [β] Ursae Majoris), which is the Dipper’s Pointer star at the bottom of the cup, to Regulus (Alpha [α] Leonis), Leo’s brightest star. Leo Minor lies at the exact midpoint of that line.

When you do locate its position, you might question the imaginations of early stargazers who drew a lion cub out of these faint stars.

The constellation’s brightest star is 46 Leonis Minoris, which shines at magnitude 3.8. (The constellation doesn’t have a star labeled Alpha.) Beta Leonis Minoris is a bit fainter at magnitude 4.2.

For more quick and easy observing tips, check out our weekly guide: The sky this week for January 4 to 13.