Starwatch: moon closes in on Virgo’s bright blue giant


We start the month with a conjunction between the moon and Spica, which will allow us to pinpoint the constellation of Virgo, the virgin, in the sky.

The chart shows the view looking due south from London at 4am GMT on 11 February. The conjunction will have been visible during the previous evening as well, rising up into the night sky from the east. The moon will be in its waning gibbous phase with almost 75% of its visible surface illuminated.

Spica is a blue giant star, located about 250 light years away. Almost 7.5 times wider than the sun, it pumps out more than 20,000 times the light of our nearest star. It is the brightest star in Virgo, and the 16th brightest star in the whole night sky. Once located, it can be used as a starting point to trace out the rest of Virgo’s shape.

The constellation and conjunction are easily visible from the southern hemisphere. From both Cape Town, South Africa, and Sydney, Australia, the constellation and the moon will be due north at 5am local time on 11 February.