The constellation Virgo represents Astraea. She is the daughter of Jupiter and Themis. Astraea was most beautiful and revered by all those upon the Earth. She is said to be the goddess of justice. When wickedness spread through mankind, Astraea was offended and went to the sky where she would no longer have to tolerate what she despised so much.

For the Observer

The Stars of Spring

Alpha Virginis, Spica (13h 25m -11°10') is a blue-white class B1 giant star of magnitude 1.0. It lies about 250 light years distant and is about 10 times the mass of our Sun. Spica is actually a multiple star system. The component has a magnitude of 3.1 and is a blue-white main sequence star.

Gamma Virginis, Porrima (12h 42m -01°27') is a 2.8 magnitude class F0 blue-white main sequence star. It is 33 light years distant. Porrima is a binary system and the stars are vittually twins in spectral class. The companion is slightly dimmer with a magnitude of 3.7.

Epsilon Virginis, Vindemiatrix (12h 59m +11°14') is a yellow giant G8 class star, 75 light years distant. The star has a magnitude of 2.8.

The Virgo Galaxy Cluster

The Coma Berenices and Virgo section of the sky is one of the most incredible sections of the sky. Here lies the Virgo cluster of over 3000 galaxies. The center of the cluster is at 12h 24m. Over 100 galaxies are able to be seen in an 8 inch telescope.

M49 (NGC 4472) (12h 27.3m +08°16') is a 9th magnitude elliptical galaxy. It is easy to spot.

M58 (NGC 4579) (12h 35.1m +12°05') This is a compact barred spiral galaxy. It is only of 10th magnitude and quite dim. The galaxy is about 50,000 light years across.

M59 (NGC 4621) (12h 39.5m +11°55') is an elliptical galaxy of 11th magnitude. Though the diameter of this galaxy is smaller than our galaxy, 24,000 light years, it is more massive with 250 billion solar masses.

M60 (NGC 4649) (12h 41.1m +11°49') This is a brighter elliptical galaxy of 10th magnitude. This galaxy is one of the largest elliptical galaxies known. The system is estimated to have 5 trillion suns, 5 times that of our Milky Way. The diameter appears to be 25,000 light years.

M61 (NGC 4303) (12h 19.4m +04°45') This is a beautiful spiral galaxy seen face on. It has a magnitude of 10. The galaxy has a very bright nucleus. The galaxy has a diameter of 60,000 light years, making it one of the largest spirals in the Virgo cluster.

M84 + M86 (NGC 4374 and NGC 4406) (12h 22.6m +13°10' and (12h 23.7m +13°13'))This is a bright pair of elliptical galaxies. They look nearly alike and both have a magnitude of 10.5. M86 is peculiar in that, unlike all the other galaxies in the cluster, it shows no red shift, but instead is approaching us.

M87 (NGC 4486) (12h 28.3m +12°40') is another giant elliptical galaxy with a magnitude of 10. The galaxy has a bright center, it is also a strong source of radio emission.

M89 (NGC 4552) (12h 33.1m +12°50') is yet another large elliptical galaxy in the cluster. It has a magnitude of 11 and is quite dim and difficult to spot except in larger scopes. It has predominately G class stars giving it a yellowish appearance.

M90 (NGC 4569) (12h 34.3m +13°26') is a bright spiral galaxy of magnitude 10. It is quite similar in type and size to our Milky Way Galaxy.

M104 (NGC 4594) The Sombrero Galaxy (12h 37.3m -11°21')This is one of the best examples of a galaxy seen nearly edge on. It is one of the brighter members of the cluster, having a magnitude of 8. It has a bulging center and conspicuous dark lane traveling through the middle.

Copyright © 1995 - 2003
Kathy Miles, Author, and Chuck Peters, Systems Administrator