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Starwatch: Virgo is at its most visible in northern spring skies

Constellation is now on opposite side of sky to the sun and best placed for night-time observation

Starwatch chart

Virgo, the virgin, is a prominent constellation in the northern spring skies. It is one of the zodiacal constellations, sandwiched between Libra to the east and Leo to the west.

Being in the zodiac means the sun, moon and planets all pass through its boundaries at certain times; the moon every month, the sun once a year around the time of the autumnal equinox in September.

At this time, Virgo is obviously in the daytime sky and therefore unobservable. Six months later during the spring, Virgo finds itself on the opposite side of the sky to the sun and is therefore best placed for observation in the night sky.

As for the planets, they all traverse Virgo in accordance with their own orbital periods. The brightest star in Virgo is Spica, a blue giant star approximately 250 light years away. It represents an ear of grain being held by the maiden.

The chart shows the view of the constellation looking south-east from London at midnight on Monday. The constellation is also visible in the southern hemisphere. From Sydney, it appears high in the eastern sky during the early evening at this time of year.