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Virgo the Maiden fully returns to the east at nightfall by late April. By late May, Virgo is well up in the evening. You’ll find Virgo in the evening sky into June and July, too. Then by late August or September, Virgo begins her descent in the west into the glow of evening twilight. In other words, now is the time to watch for Virgo. How can you see her?
Virgo ranks as the largest constellation of the zodiac and the second-largest constellation overall (after Hydra). Yet Virgo is long and rambling, with no well-defined pattern. What to do? There’s a simple solution. Virgo’s 1st-magnitude star, blue-white Spica, makes this constellation easy to locate in the night sky.
Just remember this mnemonic: follow the arc to Arcturus and drive a spike to Spica. Follow the arc in the handle of the Big Dipper until you see an orange star. That is Arcturus in the constellation Boötes. Then continue that line to Spica, as shown on the chart below.
Virgo constellation is the second-largest constellation in the southern sky. Its name is Latin and means ‘the virgin’. The constellation contains many notable bright stars, and the brightest one is Beta Virginis or Spica with a magnitude of 0.98. Virgo is first depicted in the 2nd century CE by the famous astronomer Ptolemy and listed as one of 48 then-known constellations. Today it has been officially recognized and accepted by IAU and listed as one of the 88 modern-known constellations. The constellation is represented by the symbol ♍, and belong to the Zodiac family of constellations.
Its location is one of 2 points in the sky in which the celestial equator intersects with the ecliptic – the other one is presented by Pisces constellation.
How to find Virgo constellation in the night sky?
Virgo constellation is the 2nd largest constellation in the night sky, and it lies in the third quadrant of the southern hemisphere. The constellation is visible to all observers at both hemispheres, at could be seen best at latitudes between +80° and -80°. Virgo is bordered by these constellations: Boötes, Coma Berenices, Corvus, Crater, Hydra, Leo, Libra, and Serpens Caput.
Virgo constellation is a member of the Zodiac family of constellations along with Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Pisces, Libra, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Capricornus, and Aquarius.
Major stars in Virgo constellation
There are several Messier objects, and two meteor showers associated with this constellation – the Mu Virginds and the Virginds. The brightest star of Virgo constellation is Spica, Alpha Virginis with a magnitude of 0.98. The constellation is home for several notable deep sky objects and among them are: Messier 89, Messier 90, Messier 104, Messier 84, Messier 49, Messier 58, Messier 59, the Sombrero Galaxy, the Eyes Galaxies, the Siamese Twins, etc.
Mythology of the Virgo Constellation
Virgo constellation was introduced by Greek astronomer Ptolemy and therefore has certain links to ancient myths and tails. This constellation is usually connected with Dike, the goddess of justice in Greece, a daughter of Zeus and Themis, who was a Titaness. Virgo is often described with the wings of an angel, holding an ear of wheat in one of her hands that symbolizes its Alpha star Spica. Libra constellation that represents the scale of justice is located nearby Virgo. In other interpretations, Dike was referred to as the daughter of Astraeus and Eos named Astraeia.
Dike was born a mortal and she lived in the Golden Age of mankind, according to Greek mythology. The Golden Age was depicted as a time when there had been peace and prosperity to everyone, and Dike was placed to rule there over human justice. She was born mortal. Once Zeus battled his father and eventually won and overthrew him, that time of history is known as the Silver Age. This period was not that beneficial to anyone and the four seasons were introduced to the human race. The gods were no longer respected like they were before. Dike warn the entire race what will happen if they don’t obey to the gods, and she flew to the mountains and turned against them. After humans started warring among themselves in the Bronze and Iron Age, the goddess left the Earth and went to the night sky.
There are other variations to this story, but the one linked to Dike is the most popular and known.
Virgo in skylore
In the sky, the constellation Virgo personifies Persephone, daughter of Demeter, the harvest goddess. According to a Greek myth, it was once springtime, always, on Earth. But then the god of the underworld, Hades, kidnapped Persephone.
Her mother Demeter was overcome with grief by the loss of her only child. So she abandoned her role as as Earth goddess, and the world’s fruitfulness and fertility suffered. In some parts of the globe, it’s said, winter cold blasted the blooming Earth. Elsewhere, summer heat scorched the Earth and gave rise to pestilence and disease.
According to the myth, Earth wouldn’t become fruitful again until Persephone returned home. Humanity might have been finished … but Zeus, the king of the gods, stepped in. Zeus insisted that the god of the underworld return Persephone to Demeter. Zeus also said that Persephone must eat nothing until her return. Alas, the god of the underworld purposely gave Persephone a pomegranate. She sucked a pomegranate seed on her way home.
Thus Persephone was given back to her mother, but Persephone – because of the pomegranate – has to return to the underworld for four months every year. To this day, spring returns to the Northern Hemisphere when Persephone is reunited with Demeter. The winter season reigns when Persephone dwells in the underworld.
From the perspective of the Northern Hemisphere, Virgo is absent from early evening sky in late autumn, winter and early spring. Virgo’s return to the sky at nightfall – in the months of April and May – coincides with the season of spring.
Sun in front of Virgo on your birthday?
The dates of the sun’s passage through Virgo will conflict with what you read in an astrological horoscope. A horoscope says the sun is in Virgo from about August 23 to September 22. But astrologers are referring to the sign – not the constellation – Virgo. Yes, there’s a difference between a constellation and a sign! A constellation of the zodiac refers to a section of the real starry sky. A sign of the zodiac refers to a seasonal position of the sun in an ancient system, irrespective of the true sky. In the real sky, the sun passes in front of Virgo each year from about September 16 to October 30.
Notice that the sun stays in front of Virgo for longer than a month. That’s because Virgo is such a large constellation.
By definition, the first point of (the sign) Libra always coincides with the sun’s position on the September equinox. This is in spite of the fact that, in our modern era, the sun shines in front of the constellation Virgo on the September equinox. The sun resides in the sign Libra for one month, starting on or near September 23. In the real sky, the sun shines in front of the constellation Virgo during this period of time.
Constellations are less abstract than signs. Astronomers who observe the night sky are nearly always speaking of constellations, not signs.
The Virgo galaxy cluster
In mythology, Virgo represents fruitfulness and fertility. And this constellation has also proven its fruitfulness to us in the modern era. Telescopes reveal Virgo as home of the great Virgo galaxy cluster, made up of thousands of galaxies.
Small telescopes show a few of these galaxies as faint smudges of light. That in itself is pretty amazing, given that the Virgo cluster of galaxies lies some 65 million light-years distant!
Bottom line: The constellation Virgo the Maiden fully returns to sky at nightfall – with her feet planted on the eastern horizon – by late April or early May. This post has information about how to find the constellation Virgo, its brightest star, interesting things to see within its boundaries, and its mythology.
Deep-sky objects in Virgo
The amazing Virgo Cluster lies partially in the star constellation Virgo and partially in the Coma Berenices constellation. It is about 53.8 million light-years away. This massive cluster contains around 2,000 galaxies. It also has three clearly identifiable sub-clusters.
The Virgo Cluster has a property called the Virgo-centric flow. Due to its size, it attracts other galaxies in the neighborhood, drawing them into its space. The Virgo Cluster is part of a larger cluster of galaxies that include Local Group, which in turn includes the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way
Draugr (PSR B1257+12 b)
Draugr is an exoplanet that revolves around its star, PSR B1257+12. The main star is a pulsar located 2,300 light-years from the Sun. Two other exoplanets revolve around this star, Poltergeist (PSR B1257+12 c), and Phobetor (PSR B1257+12 d). Draugar is the lowest-mass planet yet discovered, with a mass less than twice the mass of our moon