Virgo, the Second Largest Constellation
One of the most beautiful scenes to gaze at is the night sky. And what makes the night sky so breathtakingly beautiful? It is the billions of tiny twinkling stars. Well, of course, the stars are not tiny at all, instead, they are gigantic, it is just that they are so far away from us that it seems as if they are mere shining specks of bright light. While gazing at the stars you might have noticed that they congregate to form queer shapes. These ‘queer’ shapes are actually constellations (though they are not real). There are many constellations and one famous ones is Virgo.
So, what is a constellation? A constellation is basically a group of stars that form outlines or patterns imaginarily in the space. These patterns or shapes represent mythological people or gods, animals, mythical creatures, devices, etc. There is a total of 88 known constellations so far. These 88 constellations are distinct areas in the sky engulfing the entire celestial space. The most famous ones are Big Dipper, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Orion, Cassiopeia, Virgo and many more.
Facts About the Constellation Virgo
This constellation is in the southern sky. In Latin, the name Virgo means ‘virgin’. It is one of the zodiac constellations. It lies between Libra (which is in the east) and Leo (which is in the west). The main feature of this constellation is that in the sky, it is the second largest constellation after Hydra. The easiest way to find this constellation is via Spica, its brightest star.
Myth of Virgo
Virgo the constellation is usually associated with Dike, the goddess of justice in Greek mythology. Dike the goddess was the daughter of Themis, the Greek Titaness and Zeus. Virgo is commonly represented with an angel like wings, and her left hand having a wheat ear, which is marked by Spica the bright star. Virgo is placed next to the constellation Libra, which represents the scales of justice. Dike, who was the daughter of Astraeus, was also usually called Astraeia. Astraeus was the father of the stars. Also, goddess of dawn was Eos.
According to the Greek mythology, Dike used to live in mankind’s Golden Age. She was born as a mortal and transferred to Earth so she could govern over human justice. The key features of the Golden Age were peace and prosperity, humans not knowing the old age, and everlasting spring. When the prophecy came true about Zeus overthrowing his father Kronos, this initiated the Silver Age’s beginning (the Golden Age was referred to the time of Titans when Kronos ruled). But compared to Golden Age, the Silver Age did not seem as prosperous. The four seasons was introduced by Zeus, and the humans did not honour the gods anymore as they used to. Dike warned the entire race by giving a speech about the dangers and risks of forgetting the ideals and morals of their predecessors. She also warned them that worse is yet to come.
In other myths, Virgo the constellation is associated with the corn goddess Demeter, Atargatis the fertility goddess of Syria, and the daughter of Icarius Erigone, who after knowing about her father’s death had hanged herself.
Virgo is also identified with the goddess of fortune Tyche, by some historians like Hyginus and Eratosthenes. Although Tyche is commonly represented not with the ear of grain but the horn of plenty, cornucopia.
Virgo’s Major Stars
One of the brightest stars in Virgo is the Spica or Alpha Virgins and it also is sky’s 15th brightest star. The visual magnitude of this star is 1.04. The star is a rotating ellipsoidal variable, meaning it is a system of non-eclipsing close binary stars. In this the 2 components don’t eclipse with each other, instead, they are mutually warped in their gravitational interaction. Spica’s name originates from Latin meaning ‘the ear of grain of Virgo’.
The next star is the Zavijava or Eta Virgins. It is associated with F9 V of the spectral class and the distance between this star and the sun is only 35.65 measured in light years. It is the constellation’s fifth brightest star. In Arabic, the name Zavijava means ‘barking dog’s corner’. This star was also commonly called Alaraph.
Next up is Porrima or Gamma Virgins, which is a binary star. The star’s visual magnitude is 2.74 and the distance between it and the sun is 38.1 light years. The name Porrima originates from Carmenae, the 2 goddesses of prophecy. The other name of this star is Postvarta, Laouiyet al Aoua, and Arich. When the name Laouiyet al Aoua was translated into Latin it meant ‘the barker’s angle’.
The next star is Auva or Delta Virgins. It is a red giant star which belongs to M3 III of the spectral class. The distance between the sun and this star is 198 light years approximately. The visual magnitude of this star is 3.4, and the speciality of this star is that it can be viewed without binoculars. The mass of this star is 1.4 times the solar mass, but as the radius is 48 times the sun’s radius, the luminosity is 468 times that of the sun. This star has high velocity, with the speed being 30 km/s or more, which is relative to the motion and speed of its neighbouring stars.
The next star of the constellation Virgo is Vindemiatrix or Epsilon Virgins. It is the third brightest star. The visual magnitude is 2.826 and the distance between the sun and this star is 109.6 light years. It is a giant star which is associated with G8 III of the spectral class. The luminosity is 77 times that of the sun. The star’s name originates from Latin meaning ‘the grape harvester’ or ‘the grape gatherer’.
Next up is Heze or Zeta Virgins. It is the main sequence star which belongs to A3 V of the spectral type. The visual magnitude is 3.376 and the distance between the sun and this star is 74.1 light years.