Virgo (constellation)

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Virgo constellation
Virgo constellation map.png
Latin name Virgo
Latin genitive Virginis
Abbreviation Vir
Right ascension 11372211 h 37 m 22 s to  15 h 11 m 25 s151125
declination 1775962−22 ° 40 ′ 38 ″ to  + 14 ° 21 ′ 38 ″2142138
surface 1294.428 deg²
rank 2
Completely visible 67.4 ° N to 76.2 ° S
Observation time for Central Europe spring
Number of stars brighter than 3 mag 2
Brightest star (size) Spica (0.98)
Meteor streams
Neighboring constellations
clockwise from north )
swell IAU ,

The Virgin ( Latin Virgo , astronomical signs ♍) is a constellation on the ecliptic .


Virgo is the second largest constellation in the sky (after the water snake ). It lies between the lion (Leo) and the scales (Libra). The brightest stars are supposed to represent a person lying down.

The brightest star is Spica with an apparent magnitude of 0.98 mag. Spica can be found in the extension of the drawbar of the Big Dipper over the bright Arcturus in the constellation Bearkeeper .

The ecliptic runs through Virgo, therefore the sun , moon and planets move through this constellation. At the time when the constellations were named in antiquity, the sun was in the constellation Virgo from mid-August to the end of September, which at that time was almost identical to the zodiac sign Virgo. Due to the precession movement of the earth's axis, however, the time of the passage of the sun has shifted compared to antiquity . This is why the sun is currently in the constellation Virgo from September 16 to October 31.

In the constellation Virgo is the huge Virgo galaxy cluster , which contains about 2000 galaxies . Several of the galaxies can already be observed with small telescopes .


The constellation is first mentioned in Mesopotamia ; According to MUL.APIN it was known under the name MUL AB.SIN or šir'u ( furrow ) and also under d šala šubultu Šala ( god / goddess the ear of corn ). In terms of circumference, it corresponded to today's constellation Virgo, more precisely that part of it that is south of the ecliptic. The heliacal rise of the constellation, around 2700 BC. In mid-August and later around 1900 BC At the end of August, the farmers indicated the approaching start of the new annual cycle in the field. In MUL APIN, the goddess Šala is nicknamed the ear of corn , since the rising of the constellation symbolized the final phase of the harvest (bringing in the harvest). The ear of corn explicitly referred to the star Spica (Latin for "ear"), but because Spica was the first to rise star of the constellation, the constellation was named after this star.

The constellation of Virgo as seen with the naked eye

Eric Burrows assumes ( Oxford , 1926) that the change in meaning from furrow to virgin took place via a Hurrian word sala , virgin. So Šala was a goddess of pre -Semitic Syrian ( Hurrian , subartisch , mitannisch ) was and the word Šala latest by the Greeks as Virgin been taken. In the cuneiform tablets , the constellation was always referred to as ab-sim (= vegetation) or similar but never as a virgin or a similar word.

The entire constellation of Virgo had around 2700 BC. On August 29th and around 1900 BC. Its heliacal rise on September 6th in Mesopotamia. Further connections of the constellation are made to Ištar , Isis or Cybele .

A wide variety of interpretations existed among the ancient Greeks . So one saw in the constellation Athena , Hera , Persephone , Callisto , Dike , Astraea or Erigone .

The virgin is one of the 48 constellations of ancient astronomy described by Ptolemy .


Tablet with Epic of Gilgamesh.

In the mythology of Mesopotamia, the constellation Virgo was also associated with Inanna from the Gilgamesh epic . Inanna sent the heavenly bull to earth to punish Gilgamesh and Enkidu . As an astronomical process, this myth found its counterpart in the sky. With the heliacal rise of the constellation Virgo, the constellation Taurus set ; in the mythological context, the rise of Inanna was followed by the descent of the bull to earth, which took on the role of rainbringer and the plow-ox.

The following versions have come down to us from classical Greek mythology :

Core / Persephone (daughter of Demeter and Zeus)

The constellation is said to represent Persephone , the daughter of the grain and fertility goddess Demeter and of Zeus . The original name Persephones was Core . She was made pregnant by her own father and then ignored. Hades , the brother of Zeus and god of the underworld, fell in love with her and kidnapped her when she was in Sicily. He took her as his bride, what Zeus allowed, and named the unfortunate Core Persephone . Demeter became so desperate that she forgot to keep up with her duties, causing crops to fail and famine to break out. She also cursed the fields of Sicily. Zeus could not save her from this fate, but only made an agreement according to which Persephone had to spend half of the year with her husband Hades, and the other half was allowed to return to the surface.

Dike (daughter of Themis and Zeus)

According to another source, the constellation embodies the goddess Dike , daughter of Themis and Zeus. Dike lived on earth at a time when there was no war or violence and the earth was like the Garden of Eden . However, when mankind became angry, it fled to the mountains and finally to heaven. Dike is also called the daughter of Helios , Kronos or Nomos and Eusebia.

Astraea (daughter of Themis and Zeus)

But it should also be about Astraea , the virgin daughter of Themis and Zeus . She embodied justice. Because of the injustice among the people, she returned to heaven disappointed. Next to her is the constellation Libra , as a symbol of justice. Astraea is also identified as Dike and vice versa.

Erigone (daughter of Icarius)

In another version, the constellation represents Erigone , and is in connection with the neighboring constellations bear keepers and hounds . The god Dionysus taught Ikarios , the father of Erigone, the art of wine growing. Ikarios wanted to sell his wine to the people and gave it to some farmers to taste. They had never drank wine before and killed Ikarios because they thought he was trying to poison them. Erigone finally went to look for the father with the dog Maira . His dog found the place where he was buried, and out of grief, Erigone hung herself from a tree. The dog also died of grief and was transferred to heaven. Ikarios found its way into the heavenly realm as the bear guardian constellation.


Celestial objects


B. F. Vmag Names or
other designations
( Ly )
Spectral class
101α 67 0.98 Spica , Azimech, Alarph 262 B1 III / IV + B2 V
105ε 47 2.85 Vindemiatrix , Vindemiator, Almuredin, Alaraph,
Provindemiator, Protrigetrix, Protrygetor
102 G8 III
106ζ 79 3.38 Heze 73 A3 V
104δ 3.38 Minelava , Minelauva, Auva, Al Awwa approx. 200 M3 III
102β 3.59 Zavijah , Alaraph, Minelauva 36 F8 V
103γ 29 3.48 + 3.50 Porrima , Arich 39 F0 V + F0 V
400 109 3.73 109 Virginis , HR 5511 129 A0 V
112μ 107 3.87 HR 5487 , Rijl al Awwa 61 F2 III
107η 15th 3.89 HR 4689, Zaniah 250 A2 IV
113ν 3 4.04 HR 4517, Ny Virginis 313 M0 III
109ι 99 4.10 HR 5338, Syrma 70 F.
115ο 9 4.12 Omikron Virginis 171 G8 IIIa CN-1Ba1CH1
110κ 98 4.18 Kappa Virginis 224 K2.5 III Fe-0.5
119τ 93 4.23 Tau Virginis 218 A3 V
108θ 51 4.38 Theta Virginis 415 A1 IV + Am
400 110 4.39 110 Virginis , HR 5601 183 K0.5 IIIb Fe-0.5
111λ 100 4.52 Khambalia 187 A2m
116π 8th 4.65 8 Virginis 360 A5 V
122χ 26th 4.66 Chi Virginis 320 A4 V
300I. 74 4.68 I Virginis 430 M2 III
400 61 4.74 61 Virginis 28 G6 V
400 69 4.76 69 Virginis 258 K0 III-IV CN2Fe0.5
123ψ 40 4.77 Psi Virginis 420 M3 IIICa-1
118σ 60 4.78 Sigma Virginis 540 M1 III
121φ 105 4.81 Phi Virginis 135 G2 IV
114ξ 2 4.84 Xi Virginis 120 K2 III-IIIb CN1
117ρ 30th 4.88 Rho Virginis 120 A0 V
400 78 4.92 78 Virginis 183 A1p SrCrEu
400 4.93 ET Virginis , HR 5301 540 M2 IIIa
400 89 4.96 89 Virginis 242 K0.5 III-IIIb
200cc 16 4.97 C Virginis 285 K0 IIIb Fe-1
400 70 4.97 70 Virginis 59 G4 V
400 4.99 CU Virginis 262 A0 VpSi
200mm 82 5.03 m Virginis 460 M1.5 III
400 53 5.04 53 Virginis 106 F5 III-IV
400 5.09 HR 5392 151 A5 V
120υ 5.14 Upsilon Virginis 274 G9 III
400 49 5.15 49 Virginis 306 K2 III
200pp 90 5.16 P Virginis 254 K2 III
200ee 59 5.19 e Virginis 59 G0 V
400 32 5.22 32 Virginis 244 F0 IIIm
200hH 76 5.21 h Virginis 264 K0 III
400 57 5.21 57 Virginis 127 K1 III-IV
124ω 1 5.24 Omega Virginis 480 M4 III
400 68 5.27 68 Virginis 500 M0 III
400A¹ 4th 5.31 A Virginis 192 A1
400 55 5.31 55 Virginis 126 G6 V
400 5.33 HR 5013 300 K3 III
400 84 5.35 84 Virginis 217 K2 III
200bb 7th 5.36 B Virginis 276 A1 V
400 63 5.36 63 Virginis 320 K III
400 87 5.41 87 Virginis 640 M2 IIIab
400 106 5.42 106 Virginis 480 K5 III
400 95 5.46 95 Virginis 179 F2 IV
200qq 21st 5.48 Q Virginis 262 A0 V
400 86 5.50 86 Virginis 380 G8 III

Spica is a multiple star system 272 light years away . The main star is a white giant star with 13,500 times the luminosity of our sun. The star pulsates weakly over a period of 0.174 days, changing its brightness slightly in the process. At a distance of 0.12 astronomical units , a smaller companion star orbits the main star in about four days. Due to the short distance, the star is not visible in the telescope . With each orbit, the weaker companion passes in front of the bright main star, causing the brightness to decrease slightly. Spica is thus an eclipsing binary . The main star is orbited by at least two smaller companion stars that cannot be observed with optical telescopes either.

The second brightest star is the yellowish shining ε Virginis, 102 light years away.
His name, Vindemiatrix , means “grape picker”.

Double stars

system Vmag distance
Gamma Virginis 3.48 / 3.50 2010: 1.4 "
θ 4.4 / 8.6 7.2 "
φ 5.0 / 9.2 4.7 "

Gamma Virginis (γ Virginis) is a binary star 39 light years away . The two stars of roughly the same size and brightness orbit each other in around 170 years. The angular distance changes relatively strongly during one revolution. In 1920 the greatest distance was reached with 6.2 arc seconds and the stars could be observed with a small telescope. In 2005, the smallest distance was achieved and the stars were only 0.3 arc seconds apart, which made a larger telescope necessary to resolve the components.

Variable stars

star Apparent Size ( m ) period Type
Spica 0.98 0.174 days / 4.014 days Pulsation changer / coverage changer
R. 7 to 11 145.5 days Mira star

R Virginis is a variable star of the Mira type . Its brightness changes significantly over a period of 145.5 days

Messier and NGC objects

Messier (M) NGC Vmag Type
49 8.4 elliptical galaxy
58 9.7 Spiral galaxy
59 9.6 elliptical galaxy
60 8.8 elliptical galaxy
61 9.7 Spiral galaxy
84 9.1 elliptical galaxy
86 8.9 elliptical galaxy
87 8.6 elliptical galaxy
89 9.8 elliptical galaxy
90 9.5 Spiral galaxy
104 8.0 Spiral galaxy
4216 10.0 Spiral galaxy
4388 11.0 Spiral galaxy
4429 10.0 Spiral galaxy
4526 9.7 Spiral galaxy
4654 10.5 Spiral galaxy
5634 11 Globular clusters
3C273 12.9 quasar

The Virgo Galaxy Cluster is about 60 million light years away. About 250 of its members can be observed with a medium-sized telescope from 15 cm aperture. The French astronomer Charles Messier included 11 galaxies in his catalog of foggy objects.

M 49 was the first discovered galaxy in the Virgo cluster. Messier found it in 1771 . M 49 is the brightest object in the galaxy cluster. It can already be seen as a misty spot in prism binoculars . It is an elliptical galaxy . These are huge systems that were created by merging several galaxies. Elliptical galaxies contain relatively little interstellar matter and have no spiral structures.

The spiral galaxy M 61 also belongs to the Virgo galaxy cluster. In a small telescope it appears as a misty spot. Spiral structures are visible in larger telescopes.

The galaxies M 84 , M 86 , M 87 and M 88 belong to the central region of the Virgo cluster. Messier discovered all four galaxies on the night of March 18, 1781. M 84, M 86 and M 87 are elliptical galaxies, M 88 a spiral galaxy.

With an estimated mass of around 800 billion solar masses, M 84 is one of the most massive galaxies we know. It is also a powerful cosmic radio source .

M 87 is also a powerful radio source known as Virgo A. Long-exposure photographs show a jet of matter shooting out of the core of the galaxy.

The spiral galaxy M 104 , 50 million light years away , does not belong to the Virgo cluster. We see the galaxy from the side. A dark band of dust becomes visible in the middle telescope. The galaxy has roughly the shape of a hat, which earned it the name “Sombrero Galaxy”.

Other objects

The quasar 3C 273 is the core of an active galaxy located 2.5 billion light years away. It can already be recognized as a star in telescopes from 10 cm aperture.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Virgo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Virgo (constellation)  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d calculations using the astronomical program Sky-Chart III
  2. Eric Burrows, Ḫurrian Sala (s), Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 2, 1927, 318-320
  3. a b Constellation Virgo (Latin Virgo). Retrieved June 27, 2020 .
  4. vnawrath: The Virgin - From harvest, family tragedy and punitive justice. In: Volker Nawrath's blog. July 12, 2015, accessed on June 27, 2020 (German).
  5. Virgo constellation. Retrieved June 27, 2020 .
  6. Friedrich August Nösselt: Textbook of Greek and Roman mythology for higher schools for girls and the more educated of the female sex . E. Fleischer, 1837 ( [accessed June 27, 2020]).