Leo Minor
lies to the north of the Great Lion, Leo, in an area of the sky that has no bright stars and only a few celestial objects for backyard astronomers to observe. Nor are there Western mythological beasts to enliven stories told around the campfire.

Together with other stars in this region, including those we know as Leo, the Chinese recognized a great Yellow Dragon, Hien-Youen, proceeding up the steps of heaven on its way to the land of the gods. That is why we see in this illustration a dragon, rather than a lion cub.

The dragon in China was the symbol of fruitfulness brought by water. The months of May and June often were periods of drought in China when the sky burned like a red glowing sphere and not a drop of rain would fall. It was then that the Chinese sent up prayers to the Dragon to give rain. A great clay dragon was carried through the streets and through the fields while the people prayed for rain.

The brightest star in the constellation is known as Praecipua, 48 Leonis Minoris, and is but magnitude 3.9. There are only two other fourth magnitude stars. A Mira-type variable, R Leonis Minoris, has a period of just over a year, during which time it reaches a maximum brightness of 7.1, then descends to a minimum of 12.8.

Several small and faint galaxies can be found, including NGC 3344 and NGC 3486, both face-on spirals of tenth magnitude, each less than seven arcminutes across. Two other galaxies, NGC 3395 and NGC 3398, are interacting, and may be of particular interest.

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