February 26th, 2016
Having passed Regulus and Jupiter a few nights back, the waning gibbous Moon now passes close to Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo, the Virgin. The pair will appear closest for observers in the United Kingdom, but regardless of where you live, you’ll need to stay up late (or get up early the next morning) to see them.
Spica is an interesting star, some 250 light years away. It’s known as a spectroscopic binary, which means it’s actually two stars that can only be separated by the dark lanes that appear in the star’s spectrum. In fact, they’re so close together that the stars are actually egg-shaped. The main star is about ten times more massive than our Sun and is probably about 12,000 times more luminous.
And it’s name? It refers to the constellation as a whole and is derived from the Latin for “the virgin’s ear of grain” with many star atlases often depicting the constellation as a maiden holding an armful of wheat.
All Astronomical Events for February 26th, 2016
17:49 UT – The waning gibbous Moon is north of Spica. (Virgo, evening sky.)
Events in bold involve objects and/or events that are visible with the naked eye.
Easy Things to See With a Small Telescope
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