Moon and Spica

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Moon and Spica

Few constellations have as many backstories as Virgo, the virgin. In ancient Greece and Rome, it was linked with several goddesses, each with her own story.

In one story, she was Dike, the goddess of justice. She lived when the gods known as the Titans ruled the land. Everything was peaceful, it was always spring, and living was easy. But after Zeus and the Olympians defeated the Titans, life got much more complicated. The goddess had to work a lot harder to maintain peace. Eventually, things got so bad that she turned her back on humanity and settled among the stars.

In another story, Virgo was Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and the harvest. The Sun entered that region of the sky in the fall, around the time of the harvest, strengthening the connection.

Virgo’s brightest star is Spica — a name that means “an ear of grain.” It’s the only truly bright star around. It’s about 250 light-years away, and consists of two stars in a tight orbit around each other. The more massive of the two is likely to end its life as a supernova — a titanic blast fit for the early gods of ancient Greece.

Spica stands just a whisker away from the full Moon tonight. They’re low in the southeast as twilight fades, separated by about half a degree — less than the width of a pencil held at arm’s length. They arc low across the south during the night, and set around dawn.

Tomorrow: an early recipe for a system of planets.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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