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Virgo
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Virgo

This article is not about VIRGO, the French-Italian project in physics analogous to LIGO. See VIRGO (physics).

Virgo (the virgin) is a constellation of the zodiac. Lying between Leo to the west and the Libra to the east, it is one of the largest constellations in the sky. It can be easily found through its bright α star, Spica.

Virgo

   
AbbreviationVir
GenitiveVirginis
Meaning in Englishthe Virgin
Right ascension13 h
Declination
Visible to latitudeBetween 80° and −80°
Best visibleMay
Area
 - Total
Ranked 2nd
1294 sq. deg.
Number of stars with
apparent magnitude < 3
3
Brightest star
 - Apparent magnitude
Spica (α Vir)
1.0
Meteor showers
  • Virginids
  • Mu Virginids
Bordering constellations

Table of contents
1 Notable features
2 Notable deep sky objects
3 Mythology

Notable features

The most prominent star in Virgo is Spica (α Vir), which represents an ear of wheat in the goddess's hand. Spica makes it easy to locate Virgo, as it can be found by following the curve of the Big Dipper to Arcturus in Bo÷tes and continuing from there in the same curve ("follow the arc to Arcturus and speed on to Spica").

Other bright stars in Virgo include Zavijah (β Vir), Porrima (γ Vir), Auva (δ Vir) and Vindemiatrix (ε Vir). Other fainter stars which were also given a name are Heze (ζ Vir), Zaniah (η Vir), Syrma (ι Vir) and Rijl al Awwa (μ Vir).

The star 70 Virginis is an extrasolar planetary system with one confirmed planet 6.6 times the mass of Jupiter.

Notable deep sky objects

Because of the presence of a galaxy cluster (consequently called the Virgo cluster) within its borders 5° to 10° west of Vindemiatrix (ε Vir), this constellation is especially rich in galaxies.

Some examples are M49 (elliptical), M58 (spiral), M59 (elliptical), M60 (elliptical), M61 (spiral), M84 (elliptical), M86 (elliptical), M87 (elliptical and a famous radiosource), and M90 (spiral). A noted galaxy that is not part of the cluster is M104, an elliptical galaxy also called the Sombrero Galaxy. It is located about 10° due west of Spica.

Mythology

Who exactly Virgo is supposed to represent is uncertain; in history, it has been associated with nearly every prominent goddess, including Ishtar, Isis, Demeter, Cybele, and Athena.

According to one version, the constellation depicts Astraea, the virgin daughter of the god Zeus and the goddess Themis. Astraea was known as the goddess of justice, hence the scales of justice Libra nearby, and supposedly ruled the world at one point with her wise ways until mankind became so callous that she returned to skies in disgust. Persephone is often mentioned as well, Virgo being visible mainly in the spring months when she was believed to have risen from the underworld.

Astrology

The astrological sign Virgo (August 23 - September 22) is associated with the constellation. In some cosmologies, Virgo is associated with the classical element Earth, and thus called an Earth Sign (with Taurus and Capricorn). Its polar opposite is Pisces.


Astronomy | Astrology | Constellations of the zodiac
Aries Taurus Gemini Cancer Leo Virgo Libra Scorpius (Ophiuchus) Sagittarius Capricornus Aquarius Pisces