Constellations in May

2015-05-07 06:00
The constellation of Virgo in May.
Photo: rado moskov

The constellation of Virgo in May. Photo: rado moskov

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THIS is another zodiacal constellation visible in the skies during the month of May. The shape of a maiden is easily discernable following its brightest stars, I hope you will figure it out by the star map attached here. The brightest star is the famous Spica – meaning the virgin’s ear of wheat. Spica is blue giant, 10 times bigger than our Sun and 12 000 time more luminous. It is 250 light years away.

Porrima, beta Virginis is binary star with a period of 168 years. It is invisible to amateur telescopes at the moment, but by the year 2020 the angular distance between both stars will be sufficient to be observed with modest size telescopes. More than 30 exoplanets have been located around stars in Virgo, some 10 times bigger than Jupiter, some similar of our Earth, orbiting Sun-like star. Note the star Vindemiatrix – west of it is the notorious Virgo cluster of galaxies, in which our Milky Way galaxy also belongs.

To see the many galaxies in this cluster you need a good telescope, patience and very good conditions – moonless night, far from any source of light and clear cloudless skies. You can observe M49 which is elliptical galaxy, M84 – lenticular (intermediate between elliptical and spiral) M86 – also lenticular. They are not so spectacular as the spiral galaxies, but the mere fact that you looking at a body of stars 55 million light years away is amazing and puts our perspective in the universe right. Maybe one of the most famous galaxy is the Sombrero galaxy, M104 – found on the border with the neighboring constellation Corvus.

Sombrero galaxy is 28 million light years from us, and is smaller than our galaxy – 50 000 light years across. However, it is one of the most beautiful sights in telescope. Do not expect to see those Hubble-like pictures in full colour in your telescope, but the central bulging part and the dust line are clearly visible. Our eyesight is very limited to dim light and do not discern color at such dim objects. But it is worth seeing it with your own eyes, and I encourage you to try your best to see it.

If you would like to observe the universe of stars, planets, clusters and galaxies through our telescope at the evening sky, email to book

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