Star Names:

Virgo


Map of The Constellation of Virgo
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Virgo is a constellation in the southern hemisphere. It was one of the constellations listed by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century. The name means "virgin" or "young maiden" in Latin. Virgo is one of the constellations of the zodiac, which lie on the Sun's apparent path in the sky. It is the second largest constellation in the sky, smaller only than Hydra.

Virgo is primarily associated with the Greek goddess of justice, Dike, but also with the corn goddess Demeter and Astraeia, the daughter of the father of the stars, Astraeus, and the goddess of the dawn, Eos. The Greeks also used to call the constellation Parthenos. In Greek mythology, Dike was so disappointed with humankind and their sins that she spread her wings and flew up to the heavens. In the sky, the constellation Virgo lies next to Libra, which represents the scales of justice. The Babylonians knew the constellation as The Furrow.

The constellation Virgo occupies an area of 1294 square degrees and contains 12 stars with known planets. It can be seen at latitudes between +80° and -80° and is best visible at 9 p.m. during the month of May. The Sun is in the constellation Virgo between September 16 and October 30. In tropical astrology, it is said to be in the sign Virgo between August 24 and September 22. In sidereal astrology, it passes through Virgo from September 16 to October 16.

The brightest star in Virgo is [8774] Spica ("ear of grain" or "wheat"), alpha Virginis. Spica is the 15th brightest star in the sky. It lies 260 light-years from Earth and has an apparent magnitude of 1.04. The star’s luminosity is about 2,300 times that of the Sun. Spica is a blue giant, classified as a Beta Cephei type variable star. The Chinese know it as Jiao Xiu, while Hindu astronomers associate the star with the Nakshatra Chitra. 17th century western astronomers also referred to it as Arista. Spica is one of the stars represented on the flag of Brazil.

[8779] gamma Virginis, also known as Porrima and Arich, is a binary star, 38.6 light-years distant. It consists of two F class stars with close apparent magnitudes, 3.48 and 3.50. It is the second brightest star in Virgo.

[8775] epsilon Virginis, the third brightest star in the constellation, is a yellow giant, approximately 102 light-years distant. It is also known as Vindemiatrix, or the Grape Gatherer.

[8776] zeta Virginis, or Heze, is a white dwarf 73.2 light-years from Earth. The star has an exceptionally short rotation period, less than 0.5 days.

[8777] delta Virginis, or Auva, is a red giant classified as a semiregular variable, 202 light-years distant. It is a suspected binary star, with a K class dwarf located nearby.

[8778] beta Virginis is only the fifth brightest star in Virgo. It is also known as Zavijava and Alaraph. It is similar to the Sun, but bigger and more massive. It is a metal-rich star, one with an abundance of elements heavier than helium. The autumn equinox, which marks the first day of autumn and used to be the first point in Libra, now lies in Virgo, close to beta Virginis.

Virgo contains a number of notable deep sky objects. It is home to the Virgo Cluster of galaxies, which lies about 59 million light-years from Earth and contains at least 1,300 member galaxies. The Virgo Cluster is part of the Local Supercluster, also known as the Virgo Supercluster, an irregular supercluster that contains over 100 galaxy groups and clusters, including the Local Group, in which the Milky Way is located.

Notable objects in the Virgo Cluster include Messier 87 (NGC 4486), Messier 86 (NGC 4406) and Messier 49 (NGC 4472). Messier 86 is an elliptical galaxy located at the centre of the Virgo Cluster. It is approaching our galaxy, the Milky Way, at 244 kilometres per second. It is approximately 52 million light-years distant.

Messier 87, or Virgo A, is the largest and most luminous galaxy in the Virgo Cluster and the largest giant elliptical galaxy near our solar system. It is an elliptical galaxy about 55 million light-years distant. It has an active nucleus that emits strong multiwavelength radiation.

Messier 84 is another large elliptical galaxy that lies in the densely populated core of the Virgo Cluster. It is believed to have a supermassive black hole at its centre.

Messier 49 is another elliptical galaxy approximately 49 million light-years distant. It is the brightest object in the Virgo Cluster. A single supernova was discovered in the galaxy in 1969.

Virgo belongs to the Zodiac family of constellations, along with Leo, Libra, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini and Cancer.

Constellations directly bordering Virgo are Bootes, Coma Berenices, Leo, Crater, Corvus, Hydra, Libra and Serpens Caput.

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