A star that’s a popular location for mythologists old and new leads the Moon into the sky early tomorrow.
Regulus represents the heart of Leo, the lion. The bright star will stand to the upper right of the crescent Moon at first light.
Regulus is a system of at least four stars. But only one of them is visible to the unaided eye. It is bigger, heavier, and brighter than the Sun. And it’s a whisker less than 80 light-years away. That’s quite close on the astronomical scale.
Regulus is not just bright. It also lies quite near the ecliptic, which is the Sun’s path across the sky. Bright stars on the ecliptic held a special significance for many ancient cultures. So the stars were given powerful names, and they held important positions in skylore.
In Babylon, for example, Regulus was known as the king. In India, it was “the mighty.” And in ancient Persia, it was one of the four “royal” stars — the guardians of heaven. Each star controlled a quadrant of the night sky. And Regulus was the leader of the gang, giving it power over the entire sky.
Regulus is a popular spot for modern mythmakers, too — the people who create science fiction. The star has been featured in several Star Trek series, for example, and in several video games. And in Babylon 5, a 1990s TV series, it was home to the first human colony beyond the solar system.
So the heart of the lion remains a popular setting for big stories.
Script by Damond Benningfield