Regulus has always been one of the most respected stars in the sky. Some of its earliest names referred to it as a king. Others have called it “the heart,” because it represents the bright heart of the lion. And some have combined the names.
The name “Regulus” has been in use for about 500 years. It comes from the Latin word Rex, which means “the king.” Regulus means “the little king” or “the prince.”
The idea that it’s a king among stars goes back thousands of years earlier, to ancient Babylon. The name was passed down to the Greeks, then the Romans, then to the later cultures of Europe — who passed it on to us.
Regulus earned its “royal” reputation for several reasons. It’s one of the brighter stars in the night sky. It lies almost directly atop the Sun’s path across the sky, which means the Sun crosses near it every year. And it’s part of a constellation that represents a powerful animal — the lion, king of the beasts.
In fact, Regulus also has several names related to the lion. One is Cor Leonis — heart of the lion. In Arabic, it’s Kalb al Asad, which means the same thing. Both versions probably were handed down from Babylon. Indeed, the Babylonians combined the king and the lion in a single name: “the star that stands in the breast of the lion: the king.”
Whatever you call it, look for Regulus near the Moon the next couple of nights. It’s below the Moon tonight, and to the upper right of the Moon tomorrow night.
Script by Damond Benningfield