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The Urban Astronomer

The Constellation Virgo

30 May 2014, 22:59 UTC
The Constellation Virgo
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Late spring and summer skies are dominated by the big constellation Virgo, the Maiden. This grouping of stars is the second largest in the night sky (after Hydra), and includes the first magnitude star Spica, the double star system Porrima, and the Virgo Cluster, a region of the universe that has 1000s of galaxies in one place. [More on the Virgo Cluster and Supercluster in a future post]The Constellation VirgoA member of the 12-constellation zodiac, Virgo is directly in the path of the Moon, Sun and planets and consequently is host to wandering celestial objects. Now and for the coming months, bright orange Mars is passing through the constellation en route to a mid-July rendezvous with Spica. In mythology, the constellation represents a woman in the sky, but the identity is different depending on whether you read the Babylonian, Roman or Greek interpretation. And in any case, I find it quite difficult to see a distinctive pattern from the stars in Virgo. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating place in the sky, because it contains the Virgo Cluster of galaxies with notable telescope objects such as M86 and M87 and the magnificent Sombrero Galaxy.Virgo occupies an interesting space in the sky, ...

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