Current Moon Phase

Waxing Crescent
48% of full

Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

This Month: The King of Beasts and a Stellar Eclipse

This Month: The King of Beasts and a Stellar Eclipse

Spring officially arrives in the Northern Hemisphere on March 20th at 12:57 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time — and for many of us having been subjected to the polar vortex and seemingly endless rounds of ice and snow, it can’t come soon enough! And high in our current evening sky the most famous constellation associated with the spring season will be found.

In the constellation of Leo, the Lion shines the bluish-white star, Regulus. According to Richard Hinckley Allen, an expert in stellar nomenclature, this star was known in Arabia as Malikiyy – “the kingly one.” Regulus was seemingly always associated in ancient cultures with royalty and kingly power. Copernicus has been credited with giving the star its present name, a diminutive of Rex, or king, which may also relate to the four so-called “Royal Stars” (with Aldebaran, Antares and Fomalhaut) all about 90 degrees apart on the celestial sphere.

As the brightest star in Leo, first magnitude Regulus lies in the handle of the so-called “Sickle of Leo,” a star pattern resembling a large reversed question mark. Regulus is 79 light years distant; meaning that the light you see emanating from it tonight started on its journey toward Earth back in 1935. Its diameter is estimated to be about five times that of the Sun; its luminosity 160 times greater.

If You Live in New York, New Jersey, or Ontario, Take Note of This
Regulus is expected to be hidden by the asteroid 163 Erigone on the early morning of March 20, 2014, as first predicted by Aldo Vitagliano in 2004. This is the best and brightest asteroid occultation ever predicted to occur over a populated area. While the asteroid will come nowhere near Earth, as it passes in front of the star its 67-mile-wide shadow will sweep across Nassau and Suffolk counties, all five boroughs of New York City and the Hudson River Valley, with the center of the predicted shadow path following a line roughly connecting New York City, White Plains, Newburgh, Oneonta, Rome and Pulaski before crossing into Canada near Belleville and North Bay, Ontario (see the accompanying map). This stellar eclipse will occur sometime between 2:06 and 2:08 a.m. EDT. Observers in the shadow path may see Regulus suddenly wink out for as long as 14 seconds.

If you are inside the 67 mile wide path that will cross parts of NY, NJ and Ontario Canada early on Mar. 20th, you’ll see the bright star Regulus blink out for up to 14 seconds as it becomes hidden by asteroid 163 Erigone. Map courtesy of astronomer Steve Preston.


If you are inside the 67 mile wide path that will cross parts of NY, NJ and Ontario Canada early on Mar. 20th, you’ll see the bright star Regulus blink out for up to 14 seconds as it becomes hidden by asteroid 163 Erigone. Map courtesy of astronomer Steve Preston.

Algeiba, (“the Lion’s Mane”) is in the curve or the blade of the Sickle, and appears as a single star to the naked eye. However, as a telescope of only moderate size will clearly show, it is really one of the most beautiful double stars in the sky. It should really be observed in twilight or bright moonlight to reveal the contrasting colors — one star has been said to be greenish, the other a delicate yellow. Others, however, have described different hues such as pale yellow and orange; reddish and golden yellow and even pale red and white!

The Sickle, when rising and climbing the eastern sky, as it is doing during the early evening hours, is seen cutting upward. Eastward from the Sickle there is a right triangle of stars that also belong to Leo. At the eastern point of this triangle you will find Denebola, (“The Lion’s Tail”). To modern sky watchers the Sickle outlines the majestic head and mane of a great westward-facing lion, with the triangle forming the lion’s forequarters. He is crouching in the regal pose somewhat resembling the enigmatic Sphinx.

Astronomer Henry Neely (1879-1963), for many years a popular lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium would often use his electric pointer to draw attention to these stars and then would exclaim: “Behold! Here is the lion known as Leo. A conception that was familiar to the peoples of many lands long before a certain motion-picture company adopted him as its trademark.”

5 comments

1 Victoria { 03.17.14 at 2:57 am }

Yay, to everything up in the sky!!!

2 D.O.Jen { 03.16.14 at 5:40 pm }

How marvelous that our eyes see what the heavens claim!! Directionally we scan the particles of light forever searching movement maybe even sound…I acknowledge the king. Leo, our distant ruler and protector, allmightly roar…….

3 Amy V. { 03.13.14 at 4:23 pm }

Bow down, my loyal subjects…I am a Leo child! Hahahah

4 Nailah Baderinwa { 03.12.14 at 9:29 am }

The King, my rising sign! (I’m a Scorpio) I may not be able to see the Lion but with a full moon just completed the energy will still be strong ( living in Michigan)

5 Tom { 03.12.14 at 9:03 am }

“Leo” – my father’s birth sign!

Leave a Comment

Note: Comments that further the discussion of the above content are likely to be approved. Those comments that are vague or are simply submitted in order to promote a product, service or web site, although not necessarily considered "spam," are generally not approved.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.