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Don't brag about your lightning pace, for slow and steady1 won the race!
- Aesop's Fables.
|Name:||Lepus (Latin: 'hare')|
|Area:||290 sq deg|
|Co-ordinates2:||Right Ascension 06h, Declination −20°|
The small southern constellation Lepus honours the hare which is hunted nightly by Orion and his hunting dogs. Lepus is easy to find, being directly beneath possibly the most well-known constellation of all, Orion.
Arabs historically saw Lepus not as an animal but 'the throne of the central one', because of its position under Orion.
There is one Messier object in Lepus, M79 — a globular star cluster about 42,000 light years3 away. Discovered in 1780 by French astronomer Pierre François André Méchain (1744 - 1804), the cluster is +7.7 magnitude, although this can vary slightly.
A quite remarkable object in Lepus is the planetary nebula IC 418, which has been named The Spirograph Nebula because it looks as if it has been designed by someone using the toy. The central star, ZZ Leporis, is giving off chaotic solar winds which may be the cause of the remarkable pattern.
The scientific star names are simple to understand (if you know your Greek alphabet). For example: 'alpha Leporis' means it is the brightest star in the constellation Lepus. The next brightest is designated 'beta' etc. Combined with the genitive name, this is known as the 'Bayer designation'. Some stars have proper names as well, for example, alpha Leporis is Arneb. Others are known by their catalogue number.
The star R Leporis glows an intense red. Its discoverer, the English astronomer John Russell Hind (1823 - 1895), was so taken with R Leporis that in 1845 he wrote of it as resembling a blood-drop on the background of the sky. It is now known by the common name 'Hind's Crimson Star'.
Gliese 229 is a binary star system whose components are neighbours of ours, at just 19 light years distant.
|α Lep||alpha Lep||Arneb||+2.6||1,280||Yellow-white supergiant|
|β Lep||beta Lep||Nihal||+2.8||160||Yellow supergiant|
|γ Lep||gamma Lep||13 Leporis||+3.6 var||29||Multiple star system|
|δ Lep||delta Lep||15 Leporis||+3.7||112||Yellow dwarf|
|ε Lep||epsilon Lep||Sasin||+3.2||225||Orange giant|
|ζ Lep||zeta Lep||14 Leporis||+3.5||70||Has a debris disc|
|η Lep||eta Lep||16 Leporis||+3.7||49||Yellow-white dwarf|
|θ Lep||theta Lep||18 Leporis||+4.7||170||White giant|
|ι Lep||iota Lep||3 Leporis||+4.5||240||Blue-white dwarf|
|κ Lep||kappa Lep||4 Leporis||+4.4||560||Blue-white dwarf|
|R Lep||HD 31996||Hind's Crimson Star||+5.5 var||1,500||Carbon star|
|Gliese 229||HD 42581||SAO 171334||+8.2 var||19||Binary star system|
New General Catalogue (NGC) and IC (Index Catalogue)
The NGC was compiled by John Louis Emil Dreyer (director of the Armagh Observatory from 1882 - 1916).
|NGC 2017||Open cluster||+6.4||1,300||Six gravitationally bound stars|
|NGC 1904 (M79)||Globular cluster||+7.7||42,000||Part of Canis Major Dwarf galaxy|
|IC 418||Planetary nebula||+11||2,000||Discovered in 1891|
by Williamina Fleming
Extrasolar Planet in Lepus
One extrasolar planetary system had been found in the constellation Lepus, up to 2007; it was discovered in 2006. It is a gas giant which is in an extremely close and chaotic orbit around its star.
Extrasolar Planet Table
|Star name or
|Year of discovery||Comments|
|HD 33283||HD 33283 b||0.33||18.2||2006||Hot gas giant, eccentric orbit|
Witches were believed to be able to turn themselves into the shape of a hare.
The creatures have been hunted for hundreds of years. Hare meat is an extremely rich source of iron and protein, but many people will not touch them, never mind eat them!
A hare running through a town was once seen as an omen that there would be a house fire shortly afterwards.
If a pregnant woman stumbled upon a hare, or stepped into its lair, there was a superstition that her child would be born with a hare-lip. To prevent this, the woman would have to stoop down and tear the hem of her dress to counteract the curse.
For some people hares meant bad luck. Sailors would delay a voyage if they encountered a hare. And if someone were to come across one on a journey it was thought wise to return home. There were even charms to chant to ward off the jinx: Spit over your left shoulder then say 'Hare before, Trouble behind: Change ye, Cross, and free me'; or touch each shoulder with your forefinger and say, 'Hare, hare, God send thee care.'
Other people thought hares were a good luck charm! As a prevention against colic, Samuel Pepys always kept a hare's foot on his person. Fretful, colicky baby? Some midwives advised feeding them hare's brains. (This recipe did not make babyfood manufacturers' menus. Nowadays a teaspoonful of gripe water is preferred, but there are other treatments.)