September is a traditional harvest time across much of the northern hemisphere. The days are getting a little shorter, and before long, the weather will get a little cooler. And in some latitudes, the first frost could be just a few weeks away.
The September sky offers up two symbols of the harvest. There's the Harvest Moon in a couple of weeks. And early in the month, we get the last appearance of Virgo -- a constellation that's traditionally associated with the harvest.
Virgo's fairly easy to pick out the next couple of nights, because its brightest star is near the crescent Moon. The star is Spica. It represents a stalk of wheat held in the hand of a woman.
In the mythology of much of the ancient West and Middle East, the woman was either the goddess of the harvest, or the goddess's daughter.
One reason that Virgo is associated with the harvest is that when it was first drawn, thousands of years ago, it was just climbing into view in the dawn sky at the time of the autumn equinox -- the time of the harvest. Today, thanks to an effect called precession, it's on the other side of the Sun at the equinox -- disappearing in the evening sky.
Look for Spica a little above the Moon shortly after sunset this evening. They're quite low in the west. You have to look quickly, because the Moon will disappear from view by the time it gets good and dark. It'll be in better view tomorrow night, with Spica off to its right.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
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