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For the constellation Leo, its bright heart — the star Regulus — gets the lion’s share of attention. But the lion’s tail is no slouch, either. The star is bigger and brighter than the Sun. And it’s a lot younger — although there’s disagreement on just how young.
Denebola is low in the east as night falls now, far to the lower left of Regulus. It’s bright enough to see from all but the most light-polluted cities. Its name comes from a longer Arabic name — Dhanab Al-Asad — “the tail of the lion.”
The star is pretty impressive. It’s about three-quarters again the size and mass of the Sun. It’s about 15 times brighter than the Sun. And its surface is thousands of degrees hotter than the Sun’s, so the star shines pure white.
Denebola is encircled by bands of dust. The way the bands are distributed may indicate that planets orbit between them. So far, though, no planets have been seen.
Estimates of Denebola’s age vary by hundreds of millions of years. Most estimates, however, say it’s especially young. A few studies put its age at a hundred million years. A couple of others say Denebola is even younger — just 45 million years. That would make it just one percent the age of the Sun — a bright youngster at the tail of the lion.
Again, look for Denebola low in the east as darkness falls and climbing high across the sky during the night. It’ll rise a little earlier each evening as we head into spring.
Script by Damond Benningfield