Leo 1 (UGC 5470) -- Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy in Leo
A Wonderful Astronomy Start for 2020
Sometimes the unexpected happens when observing. In the early morning of January 2nd
when most of my neighbors had turned off their lights and were sleeping soundly, I pointed my
telescope to Regulus to align my telescope with its finder scope. I was eager to observe since
the sky was unusually transparent over my house.
Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation of Leo the lion. Regulus translates to the “Little
Lion” and is the closest of the brightest (1st magnitude) stars to us. Once the big and little
scopes were aligned with each other I took the time to quickly take a look at Regulus before
moving on to my pre-planned observing list for the morning.
Regulus is a quadruple star system, but only one of its companions was visible (and expected)
in the low power eyepiece. Almost immediately I glimpsed a faint ghost of light just north of
Regulus. I knew that the Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy “Leo 1” was at that location, but seriously
never thought that I would be able to visually see this Milky Way satellite galaxy from my
suburban backyard. Leo 1, at first, slipped in and out of my vision. I would see it and then it
wasn’t there. The pre-planned observing list was forgotten, and thoughts of Leo 1 filled my
head. Several minutes later, after careful scrutiny and a couple different eyepieces, I knew I
had bagged this visually very difficult dwarf galaxy. Sliding the bright Regulus out of view in a
medium-power eyepiece did help, but the truth was that I could make the galaxy out at low
power with Regulus still shining brightly in the eyepiece. One of the reasons that this was such
an impressive observation is that I have only rarely seen this dwarf galaxy and it has always
been in larger telescopes from darker sites. I never thought it possible to see Leo 1 from my
house with the 155mm refractor. It was a good way to start 2020.