Denebola

Beta Leonis, 94 Leonis

Denebola is easily located in the sky: it forms the tail of the seated form of Leo the Lion, and indeed the name Denebola derives from the Arabic for 'tail of the lion'. Though designated 'Beta Leonis', Denebola is not in fact the second brightest of Leo's stars (that is Algieba in the formation known as the Sickle). Denebola is a useful 'pointer' star for navigating around the night sky: an imaginary line from Leo's brightest star Regulus through Denebola leads eastward across the sky towards brilliant Arcturus in Boötes.

Denebola is a hot white star about 39 light years from the Solar System. A comparatively young star, it is only about a tenth of the age of the Sun, but considerably more massive. Spinning rapidly on its axis, Denebola's equator bulges outward, giving it an oblate, flattened form rather than a sphere, and evidence suggests that it is surrounded by a disk of matter. Denebola also pulses slightly over time, causing small fluctuations in its brightness, and it is classified as a variable of the Delta Scuti type.

Denebola is part of a group of a stars that seem to share a common origin, with other members of the group including Gomeisa in Canis Minor, as well as Alpha Pictoris. Though now widely separated in the sky, these stars appear to have come into in existence close together, about 400 million years ago. The stars of this group seem to be connected with the Omicron Velorum Cluster in Vela, also designated IC 2391, and the entire group is therefore known as the IC 2391 Supercluster.

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