The Cup

In Greek mythology, you didn’t have to actually do anything to incur the wrath of the gods. One example is the constellation Crater, the cup, which is in the southeast at nightfall. The story says the god Apollo sent a crow to fetch a cup of water. The crow devoured figs instead, then blamed his delay on a snake. Apollo hurled all three of them into the sky, including the cup — the constellation Crater.

It isn’t much to look at. You need fairly dark skies to see even its brightest stars. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing interesting within its borders.

One interesting star system is HD 98800. It has four stars, all of which are quite young. In fact, some of them appear to be baby stars that haven’t yet reached maturity. And the system could be giving birth to planets as well.

HD 98800 is perhaps 150 light-years away. Its stars are split into two pairs. The stars in each pair are in fairly tight orbits around each other. The pairs are farther apart, so it takes hundreds of years for them to circle each other.

The system probably is no more than about 10 million years old — compared to four and a half billion years for the Sun. One of its binaries is encircled by wide “doughnuts” of gas and dust — the raw materials for making planets. Gaps in those rings suggest that planets may already be taking shape — in a busy star system in a cup.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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