English: The Hare
Size Ranking: 51st
Area: 290 square degrees.
Lepus has been thus known since ancient Greek times. It represents a hare, cunningly located at the feet of its hunter, Orion, and pursued endlessly across the sky by Canis Major, the hunter’s dog. The Hare is also associated in many legends with the Moon. The familiar figure of the Man in the Moon is sometimes interpreted as a hare or rabbit, so perhaps Lepus is another incarnation of the lunar hare. Lepus is somewhat overshadowed by Orion’s brilliance, but is not without interest.
The suggested way to find Lepus is, having drawn a straight line from δOri, ‘Mintaka’, to αCMa, ‘Sirius’ and making this the hypotenuse of a right angled isosceles triangle, the 90º corner, when imagined on the southern side of the afore mentioned line, will coincide with αLep, ‘Arneb’.
Features of Interest:
αLep, named ‘Arneb’, the hare, at magnitude 2.6, is the brightest in this constellation. It is a white supergiant approximately 942ly away.
βLep, named ‘Nihal’, is a yellow giant star of magnitude 2.8 and closer in at 315ly.
γLep, is an attractive binocular duo consisting of a yellow star, magnitude 3.6, with an orange companion, magnitude 6.2. They are 27ly distant and have a separation of 96.3”.
δLep, magnitude 3.8, is a yellow giant, 156ly away.
εLep, is an orange giant 163ly away and magnitude 3.2.
κLep, 422ly distant, is a magnitude 4.4 blue-white star with a 7.4 magnitude companion, separation 2.6”.
R Lep, 820ly away, is an intensely red star, known as Hind’s Crimson Star, after the English observer John R. Hind, who described it in 1845 as ‘like a drop of blood on a black field’. It is a Mira-type variable that ranges from 5.5 at its brightest to as faint as 12th magnitude in a period of around 430 days.
RX Lep, is a red giant that varies semi-regularly between magnitudes 5.0 and 7.4 every 2 months or so, at a distance of 447ly.
M79 (NGC 1904), is a small but rich globular cluster 44,000ly away, visible as a fuzzy 8th magnitude star in small telescopes. Adjacent is the multiple star Herschel 3752, consisting of a 5.4 primary with two companions, a close one of magnitude 6.6 and wide one of magnitude 9.1.
NGC 2017 is a small but remarkable star cluster, also known as the multiple star, Herschel 3780. Modest telescopes reveal a group of five well spaced stars ranging from 6th to 10th magnitude.
In addition, the brightest star has a 7.9 magnitude companion that requires a higher aperture telescope to split, while an aperture exceeding 100mm should show that one of the 9th magnitude stars is a close double. However, it is not a true cluster because the component stars lie at various distances and are moving in different directions.
1. Redshift 2 – Maris Multimedia
2. The Guiness Book of Astronomy – Patrick Moore
3. Stars and Planets – Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion
4. Sky Charts – Cartes du Ciel V 2.75.