Virgo – the maiden

July 17, 2016

Astronomy

testtubebabiesSpringtime is about Virgo and has been for a very long time. Thousands of years ago this constellation was known to many as The Seed Furrow but it eventually evolved into a lovely young fertile maiden, as in “spring brings all the boys to the furrow” (wink wink). Not that thee shall be beyond slut-shaming, to the contrary, but mostly shame thy own wives and daughters, thus sayeth the unholy book of patriarchy.

Virgo is usually drawn with wheat in her hand because back then gluten was actually preferred to starving. Now days she represents femininity, vitality, hippie voodoo, and carbing-up in general.
wheaties_1000Good luck connecting the dots. Most astronomers put her feet on the left and her head on the right, unless you live in Australia where people are upside down and backwards. There is one bright star, Spica, which is in Virgo’s left hand. The word “Spica” roughly translates to “A Bunch of Wheat in Virgo’s Left Hand.”

To find your way from the arc of the Big Dipper handle, just “Arc to Arcturus and then Spike to Spica.” If you can hop from star to star like that then you are well on your way to becoming an old hardcore star-hopper like me.
arctoarcturus
warp-speed-1Virgo is our window to the Universe. The deal about that is, it’s damn hard to see out of our galaxy because of all the crap in the way. Much of our view is blocked. It’s enough poo to make a billion solar systems. Whereas in Virgo we are practically looking straight up out of the galactic pancake, so there is far less debris between us and the cosmic kitchen. Navigating your way around all the fuzzy things in this part of the sky will make you not just a star-hopper, but a galaxy-hopper. “Scotty! Put another wiener in the warp drive.”

vir
In my day, hopping galaxies was the only way to make sense of this mess. Now days there’s an app for that. But just look at this pile-up known as the Virgo Supercluster. Each little white dot in the image below represents a whole freaking galaxy. Each itty bitty tiny dot here is by itself hundreds of billions of stars and trillions of planets. It’s enough to make you feel so small, and so insignificant. But then you glance around at your peers and that seems to restore your equanimity.
VirgoSupercluster
Virgo is perfect for anyone who gets a big thrill out of looking at things they are barely able to see. There are lots here so I’ll just choose one at random Um… say… M104. The Sombrero Galaxy. It’s right smack on the border of Virgo and Corvus so I’m not certain where it actually belongs. One might say it has duel citizenship. One might say a lot of things. Anyway, in an amateur scope, without all that extra star-fuzz that long exposure photos bring out, it really does look like a sombrero.
m104
test_pizzaIf you live up north in almost Canada like I do, and want to see M104, then you need to check it out in the spring when it will be briefly above the horizon. April is good. So all you need is a clear night in April and an open field, high up on a hill, away from any lights, and a star map, and a big ass telescope, some over-priced eyepieces, a lovely beverage, and some warm friends.

People born under the sign of Virgo show all the personality traits of other human beings.

Carpe Noctem.

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