Moon and Denebola

StarDate logo
Moon and Denebola

The star that marks the tip of the lion’s tail appears to be a loner. It doesn’t have a companion star. And so far, it doesn’t appear to have any planets, either. But it does have the raw materials for making planets. And one or more worlds could have taken shape from those building blocks.

Denebola is the second-brightest star of Leo, the lion. It’s to the upper left of the almost-full Moon this evening, by about the width of your fist held at arm’s length.

Denebola is 36 light-years away — just down the astronomical block. It’s a little less than twice the size and mass of the Sun, and thousands of degrees hotter than the Sun. And it spins so fast that it bulges outward at its equator.

The star also is much younger than the Sun. Just how young isn’t certain. Estimates range from about 50 million to 400 million years. And that has a bearing on the planet situation.

If the star is near the upper end of that age range, then its planet-building days probably are over. But near the lower end, it could still be giving birth to planets.

Denebola is encircled by wide, massive bands of dust — material that can clump together to make planets. So some of that debris could be coming together now.

There are some gaps in those dust bands, though. Such voids could have been cleared out by the gravity of orbiting planets. So the search for worlds around the lion’s tail continues.

Tomorrow: the poor half of an eclipse season.

Script by Damond Benningfield

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top