Lepus the hare

Mythology

Lepus the hare has a number of origins. According to one story, Orion the famous hunter (and the constellation right above Lepus) loved to hunt hares, and so Lepus was placed in the sky for Orion's benefit. In another story, Lepus represents the hare so often associated with the moon. While we tend to see a man in the moon, many other cultures have seen a hare, and have many stories to tell about it. The Arabs believed that the four brightest stars in Lepus represented four camels drinking from the river Eridanus, another nearby constellation. The early Egyptians believed Lepus to be the boat of Osiris.

For the Observer

Autumn and Winter Skies

Alpha Lepus, Arneb (05h30m.5 -17°51') is a magnitude 2.6 star , class F0 and lies about 900 light years distant. Arneb has an 11th magnitude companion but is probably only an optical double. The colors of the pair are yellow and grey.

Beta Lepus, Nihal (05h26m.1 -20°48') has a magnitude of 2.8 and is a yellow class G5 star about 115 light years distant. It has an 11th magnitude companion, but the pair are so close it is nearly impossible to separate except in large telescopes.

Gamma Lepus (05h42m.4 -22°28') has a magnitude of 3.6 and is a class F6 star about 29 light years distant. The star is a wide double. The companion has a magnitude of 6.18 and is a class F6 star. The color contrast of the pair is quite nice, being described as yellow and garnet.

R Lepus, Hind's Crimson Star. (04h57m.3 -14°53') This star is a famous long period pulsating red variable. The magnitude range is 5.9 to 11 over a period of 432 days. At times the star has been known to reach naked eye visibility in really dark skies, but this would be very rare. The color of the star is an intense smoky red and has been reputed to be the most beautiful star in the sky.

M79(5h22m.2 -24°34') globular cluster of magnitude 8 about 54,000 light years distant. It has a very compact central region and looks nice in a small telescope.


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Kathy Miles, Author, and Chuck Peters, Systems Administrator
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