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April 5, 2017

Astronomically we know that it is a binary star system, but I will be referring to it as “a” star. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says. The history of the star: Spica. from p.466 of Star Names, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889. Notice that the Big Dipper has a bowl and a long, curved handle. Located some 262 light-years from Earth, Spica looks like a single star. Alpha (α) Virgo, Spica, is a binary, brilliant flushed white star marking the Ear of Wheat shown in the Virgin's left hand. Scouts and stargazers remember this trick with the saying: Follow the arc to Arcturus, and speed on (or drive a spike) to Spica. It’s thought that the pointed ends of these egg-shaped stars face each other as they whirl around. The dual nature of this star was revealed only by analysis of its light with a spectroscope, an instrument that splits light into its component colors.

Find the Dipper, and then follow the curve of its handle outward, away from the Dipper itself. In 2016, the International Astronomical Union organized a Working Group on Star Names (WGSN) to catalog and standardize proper names for stars.

Both are larger and hotter than our sun, and they’re separated by only 11 million miles (less than 18 million km), orbiting their common center of gravity in only four days. Image via Glyphweb.com, Spica’s position is RA: 13h 25m 12s, dec: -11° 09′ 41″. It is the brightest star in the constellation and the 15th brightest star in the night sky. Identify this beautiful blue-white star with the Big Dipper’s help to spot it in the sky.

From all of Earth, Spica rises earlier each evening so that – by the end of August – Spica can be viewed only briefly in the west to west-southwest sky as darkness falls. Ancient Chinese considered Spica to be a special star of spring and called it Kio, the Horn. The Sun joins Spica on October 16. Instead, they feel that there may be as many as three other stars in the system. Classical illustration of the constellation Virgo the Maiden, via constellationsofwords.com. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. Their diameters are estimated to be 7.8 and 4 times the sun’s diameter. The magnitude changes could be the result of the stars showing more or less surface area as they move through different orientations in their orbits. From all of Earth in May, as night passes, Spica appears to move westward. Here’s how you can find Spica. In China, Spica is known as Jiao Xiu 1 and belongs to the constellation Jiao Xiu. The two stars are so close, and they orbit so quickly around each other, that their mutual gravity distorts each star into an egg shape.

Spica is one of several bright stars that the moon can occult (eclipse).

Spica is the bright bluish star in the wheat stalks held by the Lady in the Sky – the constellation Virgo. The Dipper is highest in the sky in northern spring and summer.

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