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Moon and Spica

February 8, 2015

Spring is still weeks away, but many farmers and home gardeners alike are already preparing for planting. Even as spring draws closer, though, a constellation that’s associated with the opposite end of the growing season is rising to prominence. In fact, its brightest star huddles close to the Moon late tonight.

Spica is the brightest star of Virgo. It’s directly below the Moon as they climb into good view around midnight, and even closer to the Moon at dawn tomorrow.

In mythology, Virgo was associated with the harvest. Depending on the story, the constellation represented either a harvest goddess or the daughter of a goddess. Spica was a stalk of wheat held in her hand.

Virgo was linked to the harvest because the Sun passed in front of its stars during autumn, when farmers were reaping the crops they’d planted months earlier. At this time of year, though, the Sun is half-way around the sky, a long way from Virgo.

The Moon roughly follows the Sun’s path across the sky, so it circles through Virgo’s borders every month. It typically passes within a few degrees of Spica, and it can even cross directly in front of the star, blocking it from view.

That won’t happen tonight, but Spica and the Moon will create a beautiful pairing. They’ll climb into view by around midnight and keep company as they sail across the south during the early morning. They’ll be in the southwest at first light, with Spica just to the lower left of the Moon.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010, 2014

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