Have you ever looked at the night and sky and wondered what constellations you could see?
Well, if you’re looking at the night sky around May, you may just be looking at the Virgo constellation.
Not only does it occupy a large portion of the sky, but its brightest star is easily detected.
Hungry to know more about Virgo? Here are some Virgo constellation facts just for you!
Virgo Constellation Facts You Need to Know
Virgo, also called The Virgin, occupies exactly 1,294 square degrees of the night sky. That’s about 3.14% of it!
Because Virgo occupies a vast space in the sky, it earned the second spot between the largest constellations. However, Virgo is still the largest constellation among all zodiacal constellations.
Virgo has 29 stars, but only 9 of them make up the constellation. Sometimes, you can observe four more stars to complete the winged woman shape of Virgo.
With an untrained eye, the Virgo constellation may not look much. In fact, you may not even recognize it at all at first.
Its precise location is on the southern hemisphere’s third quadrant.
You can also see this constellation virtually anywhere in the world since its visibility range is from 80 to -80 degrees latitude.
If you’re looking to start your journey as an aspiring astronomer, you can begin with locating the Virgo constellation.
One way to remember Virgo’s location is by remembering this phrase: arc to Arcturus and spike to Spica.
To do this, imagine tracing an arc from the Big Dipper’s handle to the star of Arcturus.
Then, make your way to the brightest star of the Virgo constellation in a straight or spiked line.
Once you find Spica, the rest of the constellation will reveal itself.
While you can easily spot Virgo throughout the year, the best viewing season depends on where you are in the hemisphere.
For example, people from the southern hemisphere can marvel at Virgo during fall and winter.
On the other hand, northern hemisphere stargazers can admire the constellation earlier in the year during spring and summer.
The best month for the southern hemisphere to observe Virgo is during May at around 9 PM.
Out of the 29 stars Virgo has, here are three notable ones you should know.
Spica, or Alpha Virginis, is the brightest star of the Virgo constellation.
This bluish star stands at a magnitude ranging from 0.97 to 1.04.
Despite looking like a single star, a recent observation revealed that Spica is actually a double star.
Of course, we can’t distinguish this with the naked eye, especially since Spica is 262 lightyears away.
Spica is also a massive and scorching star, even larger and hotter than the sun.
This star burns at a blazing temperature of 22,400 Kelvin.
To put this in perspective, the sun only burns at 5,800 Kelvin. So, Spica is almost four times hotter.
In terms of brightness, Spica is 2,200 times brighter than the sun.
It’s great that Spica is substantially distant from the earth, or we’ll probably burn from its heat!
Another double star in the Virgo constellation is Porrima or the Gamma Virginis.
This star is Virgo’s second brightest star, with a magnitude of 2.74.
You can spot Porrima in the center of the constellation, where the maiden’s head and body meet. You won’t even need a telescope to see this.
With a distance of 38 lightyears away, Porrima is relatively closer to the earth than Spica.
Vindemiatrix, or the Epsilon Virginis, is the third brightest star in the Virgo constellation.
It has a magnitude of 2.85 and lies farther than Porrima at about 109.6 lightyears.
In contrast with the hotness of Spica, Vindemiatrix burns less than the Sun at a temperature of 5,086 K.
As a result, Vindemiatrix glows as a yellowish star.
Vindemiatrix is also 20 times bigger and 77 times brighter than the sun.
Once you get your telescope and point it at the Virgo constellation, you’ll notice that you’ve just hit an astronomical treasure.
There are several striking deep-sky objects around the Virgo constellation.
The Virgo cluster is the nearest cluster to our Milky Way galaxy, consisting of 1,300 to 2,000 other galaxies.
Because of its number of members, the Virgo cluster is heavily dense.
This cluster rests at the center of an even bigger cluster, the Virgo Supercluster.
This supercluster also carries the Local Group.
The Virgo Cluster has a strong gravitational pull that slows down the ideal speed of the Milky Way.
If anything, our galaxy is moving toward the Virgo Cluster.
As suggested by its name, the Sombrero galaxy resembles a huge Mexican hat.
Its technical name is M104, but you’ve got to admit that the Sombrero galaxy sounds cooler.
This galaxy lies 31 million lightyears from earth.
The Sombrero galaxy’s form also reveals a halo of stars in its center.
Because of its massive mass, astronomers suspect that it’s hiding a black hole.
This behavior is typical with many galaxies.
What’s interesting about this is that this galaxy houses as many as 2,000 different clusters in tight orbits.
As a result, the Sombrero galaxy became the Herculean deep-sky object it is today.
Aside from the Sombrero galaxy, many other Messier objects surround the Virgo constellation.
These Messier objects can be one of three types: elliptical, lenticular, or spiral galaxies.
Elliptical galaxies include:
- Messier 49
- Messier 59
- Messier 60
- Messier 87
- Messier 89
Lenticular galaxies are named:
- Messier 84
- Messier 86
Spiral galaxies consist of:
- Messier 58
- Messier 61
- Messier 90
The Virgo constellation holds a feast of fascinating astronomical information.
Aside from being one of the most prominent constellations, it’s the perfect starting point for aspiring astronomers.
These Virgo constellation facts can be your initial guide to dive even deeper into the astronomical world.
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