Virgo Constellation: Facts about the Virgin
Virgo is a congested constellation with 26 known exoplanets — planets outside of the solar system — orbiting around 20 stars, and at least a dozen Messier objects. It is the largest constellation of the Zodiac and the second-largest constellation overall, behind Hydra.
Virgo covers 1,294 square degrees. Most of the constellation’s stars are dim, but Virgo's bright blue-white star, Spica, is fairly easy to locate. Stargazers can use the Big Dipper as a guide. Follow the curve of the handle down to the southeast until you come to the bright star Arcturus, in the Bootes constellation. Continue the arc to the next bright star, which is Spica. There's even a mnemonic phrase to help you remember: "Follow the arc to Arcturus, then speed on to Spica."
Tied to fertility and agriculture, Virgo appears to stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere during the spring and summer months and to those in the Southern Hemisphere in autumn and winter.
- Right Ascension: 13 hours
- Declination: 0 degrees
- Visible between latitudes 80 and minus 80 degrees
- Best seen in May at 9 p.m.
Spica, also known as Alpha Virginis, is the brightest star in the constellation. Spica ranks as the 16th brightest star in the night sky and can be regarded as a nearly perfect example of a star of the first magnitude. It is a blue giant about 260 light-years from Earth. The star is about twice as big as the sun and its luminosity is 2,300 times that of the sun. It is known as the "ear of wheat" being held by Virgo.
The second brightest star is Gamma Virginis, also known as Porrima and Arich, is a binary star. The third-brightest star, Epsilon Virginis, is a yellow giant that is also known as Vindemiatrix, or the Grape Gatherer.
Zeta Virginis, or Heze, is a white dwarf notable for its exceptionally short rotation period of less than 0.5 days.
The star 70 Virginis has one of the first known exoplanets, with one confirmed planet 7.5 times the mass of Jupiter.
Virgo is typically linked to Dike, the Greek goddess of justice, and Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, the harvest goddess. According to Greek mythology, the earth experienced eternal spring until the god of the underworld abducted the spring maiden Persephone.
In astrology, which is not a science, Virgo is the fifth sign in the Zodiac and represents those born between Aug. 23 and Sept. 22.
— Kim Ann Zimmermann
- How the Night Sky Constellations Got Their Names
- Constellations: The Zodiac Constellation Names
- Orion Constellation: Facts About the Hunter
- Pegasus Constellation: Facts & Notable Features
- Draco Constellation: Facts About the Dragon
- Gemini Constellation: Facts About the Twins
- Leo Constellation: Facts About the Lion
- Scorpio Constellation: Facts About the Scorpion
- Cancer Constellation: Facts About the Crab
- Aries Constellation: Facts About the Ram
- Taurus Constellation: Facts About the Bull