What's Up! (Fact & Fantasy about the Spring constellations) by Stardancer
Did you know that the image of a Goddess is visible in the Spring night sky? How appropriate it is that she should appear this time of year carrying a sheaf of wheat in her hand to bless the crops as the wheel of the year turns once more to the planting season. The constellation is Virgo and around mid-March, she begins to grace the southeastern sky in the northern hemisphere.
This universally recognized Maiden bewilders us with her many identities! The Greeks saw the constellation Virgo as Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. The Romans transformed Demeter into the goddess Ceres, and saw Virgo in Her image. To the Romans, Ceres was the goddess responsible for the growth of plants that were used for food, and she was also the goddess of the harvest. In Egypt, Virgo appears in the zodiacs of Thebes as Isis, the great Egyptian goddess, the protectress of the living and the dead and the principal mother goddess. She is also spoken of as a goddess in ancient Turkey, Sidonese and Indian cultures. By the Sumerians, Virgo was seen as Inanna, meaning Queen of Heaven. And the Babylonians linked her with the goddess Ishtar, also known as Eostre, whose festival is the origin of Easter, celebrated as Virgo becomes prominent in the night sky.
During the 'Golden Age', when Greek gods and goddesses roamed the earth, she was known as Astraea, goddess of innocence and purity. As the world began to change and discontent and conflict rose among the populace, the gods abandoned human society to take up residence in heaven. When Astraea, the last celestial being to leave the earth, saw that the people would not mend their evil ways, she rose slowly upward into the skies until she reached her present position between Leo and Libra, where at night she still shows herself to mortals.
Virgo is the second largest constellation and is highest in the northern hemisphere during May and June. Virgo is the only female sign in the zodiac, and the sun spends more time in this constellation than in any other zodiac sign. The brightest star in Virgo is Spica, Latin for "ear of wheat". The easiest way to find Virgo, is to begin with the Big Dipper in the northeast sky. If you follow the arc of the Big Dippers handle eastward, you will "arc to Arcturus" the bright orange star midway up in the eastern sky that marks the base of the kite-shaped figure of Bootes, the Herdsman, in early Spring laying almost horizontal. Continuing the line from Arcturus and you will "speed to Spica" the brightest star in Virgo in the southeast. Spica is the only bright star in Virgo. The remainder of the stars are much dimmer, but the main part of Virgo forms a square upward and to the right of Spica. The most outstanding feature of Virgo are the cluster of galaxies, the central cluster being the Virgo Supercluster located on the northern border of Virgo and reaching into the neighboring constellation of Coma Berenices. This supercluster is about 65 million lightyears away. The Virgo cluster contains as many as 3,000 galaxies and the brightest galaxies can be located with a moderate-sized telescopes.
Early Spring evenings might still be a bit brisk for extended star gazing, but the skies are clear and it's worth the effort to get out there and enjoy the wonders of the night sky. So make some hot chocolate or tea, bundle up in warm clothes and get out and see 'em.
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