Leo Minor is a small constellation in the northern hemisphere. Its name is Latin for "the smaller lion." It was not considered to be a separate constellation until 1687, when the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius created it from some of the faint stars lying between the constellations Leo
and Ursa Major
. Leo Minor is represented as a lion cub lying next to Leo. There are no myths associated with the constellation.
The constellation Leo Minor occupies an area of 232 square degrees and contains one star with known planets. It can be seen at latitudes between +90° and -45° and is best visible at 9 p.m. during the month of April.
Leo Minor does not have any stars brighter than fourth magnitude. Interestingly, the constellation does not have a star named alpha Leonis Minoris, as a result of an oversight on the part of Francis Baily, a 19th century English astronomer who named the stars in the constellation in his British Association Catalogue of 1845. He designated the second brightest star in Leo Minoris beta, but left the brightest star, now 46 Leonis Minoris, unnamed.
46 Leonis Minoris was also at one point known as Praecipua ("the chief"). The Chinese knew it as "the Fourth Star of the Eunuch." 46 Leonis Minoris is almost a K-type giant, approximately 98 light-years away from Earth.
beta Leonis Minoris is a binary star with a G-class giant as the primary star and an F-class dwarf as the companion.
20 Leonis Minoris is another binary star, one with relatively high proper motion and a metal-rich red dwarf for a companion. It is only 14.9 parsecs distant from the Sun.
The most visible deep sky object in the constellation Leo Minor is NGC 3003, a Wolf-Rayet galaxy with many bright, hot, large stars and asymmetric spiral arms, seen edge-on, almost 80 light-years distant.
Another interesting object in Leo Minor is Hanny’s Voorwerp (Hanny’s Object), discovered by a Dutch school teacher at an amateur astronomy event in 2007. Hanny’s Voorwerp is an astronomical object of unidentified nature, lying near a faint spiral galaxy, IC 2497. It is green in colour and contains a vast central hole, more than 16,000 light-years across in size. The object is located approximately 700 million light-years from Earth.
Leo Minor belongs to the Ursa Major family of constellations, along with Ursa Major
, Ursa Minor
, Canes Venatici
, Coma Berenices
, Corona Borealis
Constellations directly bordering Leo Minor are Ursa Minor