The Virgo constellation is one of the most well known groups of stars due to it’s Zodiac family. It’s one of the largest constellations overall, and it’s a great place for beginners to start because it’s very easy to identify. It’s brightest star, Spica, is one of the brightest in the sky, so it’s quite simple to find. Let’s look at some of the facts about Virgo.
- Bordered By; Bootes, Coma Berenices, Leo, Crater, Corvus, Hydra, Libra, Serpens Caput.
- Named after; The Virgin
- Declination; -4°
- Brightest Star; Spica
- Best seen; Northern Hemisphere, April
- Size rank; 2nd
- Constellation family; Zodiac
- Pronunciation; VER-GO
What is Virgo named after?
We can trace Virgo all the way back to Babylonian astronomy – Spica, the brightest star, is actually Latin for Ear of Grain, related to the Mesopotamian furrow – this is how Virgo became associated with fertility. The Virgo is primarily known for being associated with Goddesses in Greek mythology. This ranges from Zeus’s daughter Persephone, the Greek Goddess of Vegetation, to Demeter, the Goddess of Agriculture, which maintained the links to grains and fertility. Virgo is literally Latin for Virgin.
Who founded the Virgo Constellation?
Although Virgo had likely been identified in the sky earlier than this, the first records that we have of the Zodiac signs being identified is by Greek astronomer, Ptolemy, all the way back in the 2nd Century.
How can I see Virgo in the sky?
Fortunately, it is actually quite easy to see the Virgo constellation in the sky, especially between March and April times. You just need to identify the big dipper (part of the Ursa Major constellation), then follow the curve down past Arcturus (part of the Bootes constellation) to find Spica.
Main Stars of Virgo
As stated, finding Virgo should be quite easy if you’re in the Northern hemisphere. Here are some of the stars of Virgo – you can match them with the stars above to identify them.
- Spica (α) – Spica, or Alpha Virginis, is one of the brightest stars in the sky. It is the brightest rotating ellipsoidal variable star. This means a pair of stars that are ellipsoidal (circular or oval) and fluctuate in light due to the way we see them. Spica joins up with Bootes Arcturus and either Regulus or Denebola from the Leo Constellation to form the Spring Triangle. Spica is well studied and known, even featuring on the Brazilian flag.
- Porrima (γ) – Porrima, also known as Gamma Virginis, is a pair of binary stars that work in a system together, orbiting the same object. They are almost the same magnitude. It’s name is derived from the Goddess of Prophecy in Roman mythology.
- Vindemiatrix (ε) – Vindemiatrix, also known as Epsilon Virginis, is the third brightest star in the Virgo constellation. It is a giant star, and has 77x the luminosity of the Sun. It’s name comes from the Latin for Grape Harvestress.
- Zavijava (β) – Zavijava takes it’s name from Arabic, and is a star that can actually be covered up by the Moon and other planets on occasion, which is rate. This star is also known as Beta Virginis.
- 109 Virginis – 109 Viriginis stands alone as a single white star, and is estimated to be 320 million years old. It is the 7th brightest star in the Virgo constellation.
- Syrma (ι) – Syrma, which is also known as Iota Virginis, is another binary star system. It consists of a yellow star that has a radius that is 2.5x that of the Sun. The other star hasn’t be detected.
- Zaniah η – Also referred to as Eta Virginis, Zaniah is actually made up of three stars which rotate around an object. Actually, two of the stars form a binary rotating system, and one extra star is rotating them! It’s name comes from the Arabic for Corner.
The Virgo constellation is one of the brightest in the sky, so it makes sense for amateur astronomers in the Northern hemisphere to check it out first when stargazing. This is especially true in March and April, when it is most visible. Virgo, or The Virgin, is one of the best known Zodiac constellations and it has one of the brightest stars in Spica, too.