Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterThe constellation Virgo lies directly on the ecliptic plane. This constellation was one of the 48 constellations discovered and documented by Ptolemy. The constellation covers 1294 degrees of the night sky. It is the second largest constellation. The celestial equator crosses the ecliptic plane inside Virgo. The constellation contains 96 Bayer/ Flamsteed stars. It is widely visible and is best seen during the month of May.
The Earth sees two meteor showers that are associated with Virgo: the Virginids and the Mu Virginids. The Virginids will produce around 10 meteors per hour and seem to be coming from Gamma. The Mu Virginids produce 7 to 10 meteors per hour and appear to come from the border of Virgo and Leo.
The brightest star in Virgo is Spica(Alpha Virginis). This star is only 262 light years from Earth and is a 1.0 magnitude star. The star has a luminosity that is 2100 times that of our Sun. the beta star, Zavijava is about 36 light years from our solar system. Albert Einstein used this star on September 21, 1922 to determine the speed of light in space. The gamma star is known as Porrima. This is a binary system. The stars revolve around each other and are far enough apart at times to be easily resolved. At this time they are very close together and can only seen separately with a high power telescope. They will remain that way until 2020.
Virgo contains many deep sky objects, including: Messier 49,Messier 58, Messier 104, NGC 4470, NGC 4387, NGC 4567, NGC 4569, Peculiar Galaxy 134, and Messier 84. Messier 84 is also known as Peculiar Galaxy 152. This object showed a jet of gaseous material extending from its core and pushing out several thousand light-years into space. This highly perturbed jet exhibits the same polarization as synchrotron radiation, which is a property of neutron stars. A second eruption was discovered in 1966, but going in the opposite direction. Its position over an x-ray cloud extending through the Virgo cluster makes M87 a source of an incredible amount of x-rays. Its many strange properties, make M87 a target of ongoing scientific investigation. The Hubble Space Telescope has shown a violent nucleus surrounded by a fast rotating accretion disc, whose gaseous make-up may be part of a huge system of interstellar matter.
Here is the NASA page with all of the articles they have about Virgo. Here on Universe Today we have a great article about all of the features in the constellation Virgo. Astronomy Cast offers a good episode about the largest structures in the universe.