Stars with illustrations showing constellations including dogs and a lion

Constellation Hunter: Hidden in the Spring Skies

Published02/24/2021 , by Sarah Komperud

Across the sky there are 88 total constellations, but not all of them are home to bright, easy to find stars. Back in the 17th century, Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius introduced several smaller and dimmer constellations to fill in otherwise unassigned segments of the sky. The spring sky holds several of these constellations wedged in and hidden between the bright stars of Leo, Ursa Major, and Boötes.

Leo Minor, the Lesser Lion or Lion Cub

Constellations of Leo Minor, the Lesser Lion or Lion Cub, shapes drawn over stars

Made with Digistar (logo)

Leo Minor, the Lesser Lion or Lion Cub, can be found in the shape of a kite on a string right above the easy to spot Leo the Lion, and under the feet of Ursa Major.

Just to the west of Leo Minor, twisting its way in front of Ursa Major is Lynx. It was said that you needed the eyesight of a Lynx to see these stars, that’s how this constellation got its name.

Below Leo Minor and Leo, is a hook of stars that make up the favorite astronomical tool of the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius who named this constellation, the Sextans. Sextants are a tool used to measure star positions.

Helping Boötes herd the bears, the two hunting dogs Canes Venatici, can be found chasing Ursa Major around the sky. Located to the west of Boötes and just below the tail of the Big Bear, the dogs are another one-liner constellation.

Dating back before Helvelius, the constellation Coma Berenices, also known as Berenice’s Hair, is said to be named after Queen Berenice II of Egypt. Like many other constellations, Coma Berenices doesn’t look like what it’s named after, rather it looks like a right angle below Canes Venatici with Boötes to the east.

Last, but not least, is Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. It is just to the west of Boötes and actually resembles a crown with its stars in a semicircle opening upwards. This semicircle of stars has been recognized as many things by cultures across the globe; from a broken bowl, to a boomerang, to a gathering circle.

For more constellation hunting, check out our main Constellation Hunter page with videos for a variety of constellations!