Universe Guide

Spica (Alpha Virginis, 67 Virginis) Star Facts

Spica Facts

  • Spica is a rotating main sequence star that can be located in the constellation of Virgo. The description is based on the spectral class.
  • Spica is a main star of the constellation outline.
  • Based on the spectral type (B1V) of the star, the star's colour is blue .
  • Spica is the 16th brightest star in the night sky and is the brightest star in Virgo based on the Hipparcos 2007 apparent magnitude. The star can be seen with the naked eye, that is, you don't need a telescope/binoculars to see it.
  • Spica has a radius that is 7.47 times bigger than the Suns. Radius
  • Using the most recent figures given by the 2007 Hipparcos data, the star is 249.74 light years away from us. Distance

Spica's Alternative Names

Alpha Virginis (Alf Vir) is the Bayer Classification for the star. The Bayer Classification was created by Johann Bayer in 1603. The brightest star in the constellation is normally given the Alpha designation, there are exceptions such as Pollux which is Beta Geminorum.

The Id of the star in the Yale Bright Star Catalogue is HR5056. HIP65474 is the reference name for the star in the Hipparcos Star Catalogue. The Id of the star in the Henry Draper catalogue is HD116658.

Spica has alternative name(s) :- , alf Vir.

Flamsteed designations are named after the creator, Sir John Flamsteed. Sir John named the stars in the constellation with a number and its latin name, this star's Flamsteed designation is 67 Virginis. The Flamsteed name can be shortened to 67 Vir.

The Gould star designation is one that was designed by American astronomer, Benjamin Apthorp Gould. Gould stars are predominantly in the Southern and Equatorial constellations but do appear in northern constellations such as Bootes and Orion. The star has the designation 144 G. Virginis. There are no stars with a Gould designation in Ursa Major for example.

BD number is the number that the star was filed under in the Durchmusterung or Bonner Durchmusterung, a star catalogue that was put together by the Bonn Observatory between 1859 to 1903. The star's BD Number is BD-10 3672.

More details on objects' alternative names can be found at Star Names .

Location of Spica

The location of the main sequence star in the night sky is determined by the Right Ascension (R.A.) and Declination (Dec.), these are equivalent to the Longitude and Latitude on the Earth. The Right Ascension is how far expressed in time (hh:mm:ss) the star is along the celestial equator. If the R.A. is positive then its eastwards. The Declination is how far north or south the object is compared to the celestial equator and is expressed in degrees. For Spica, the location is 13h 25m 11.60 and -11° 09` 40.5 .

Radial Velocity and Proper Motion of Spica

Proper Motion

All stars like planets orbit round a central spot, in the case of planets, its the central star such as the Sun. In the case of a star, its the galactic centre. The constellations that we see today will be different than they were 50,000 years ago or 50,000 years from now. Proper Motion details the movements of these stars and are measured in milliarcseconds. The star is moving -30.67 ± 0.38 milliarcseconds/year towards the north and -42.35 ± 0.70 milliarcseconds/year east if we saw them in the horizon.

Radial Velocity

The Radial Velocity, that is the speed at which the star is moving away/towards the Sun is 0.00 km/s with an error of about 3.70 km/s . When the value is negative then the star and the Sun are getting closer to one another, likewise, a positive number means that two stars are moving away. Its nothing to fear as the stars are so far apart, they won't collide in our life-time, if ever.

Physical Properties of Spica

Spica Temperature and Colour

Based on the star's spectral type of B1V , Spica's colour and type is blue main sequence star. The star's effective temperature is 25,300 Kelvin which is hotter than our own Sun's effective Temperature which is 5,777 Kelvin.

Spica Luminosity

Luminosity is the amount of energy that a star pumps out and its relative to the amount that our star, the Sun gives out. The figure of 13,071.47 that I have given is based on the value in the Simbad Hipparcos Extended Catalogue at the University of Strasbourg from 2012.

Spica Radius

Spica Radius has been calculated as being 7.47 times bigger than the Sun. The Sun's radius is 695,800km, therefore the star's radius is an estimated 5,197,626.00.km. If you need the diameter of the star, you just need to multiple the radius by 2.

Spica Mass

The Spica's solar mass is 11.43 times that of our star, the Sun. The Sun's Mass is 1,989,100,000,000,000,000,000 billion kg. which to calculate using this website is too large. To give idea of size, the Sun is 99.86% the mass of the solar system.

Spica Iron Abundance

Spica Iron Abundance is -0.01 with an error value of 9.99 Fe/H with the Sun has a value of 1 to put it into context. The value comes from the Hipparcos Extended Catalog.

Spica Apparent and Absolute Magnitudes

Spica has an apparent magnitude of 0.98 which is how bright we see the star from Earth. Apparent Magnitude is also known as Visual Magnitude. If you used the 1997 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of -3.55 If you used the 2007 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of -3.44. Magnitude, whether it be apparent/visual or absolute magnitude is measured by a number, the smaller the number, the brighter the Star is. Our own Sun is the brightest star and therefore has the lowest of all magnitudes, -26.74. A faint star will have a high number.

Distance to Spica

Using the original Hipparcos data that was released in 1997, the parallax to the star was given as 12.44 which gave the calculated distance to Spica as 262.19 light years away from Earth or 80.39 parsecs. If you want that in miles, it is about 1,541,316,786,595,010.71, based on 1 Ly = 5,878,625,373,183.61 miles.

In 2007, Hipparcos data was revised with a new parallax of 13.06 which put Spica at a distance of 249.74 light years or 76.57 parsecs. It should not be taken as though the star is moving closer or further away from us. It is purely that the distance was recalculated.

Using the 2007 distance, the star is roughly 15,793,586.16 Astronomical Units from the Earth/Sun give or take a few. An Astronomical Unit is the distance between Earth and the Sun. The number of A.U. is the number of times that the star is from the Earth compared to the Sun. The star's Galacto-Centric Distance is 7,366.00 Parsecs or 24,025.19 Light Years. The Galacto-Centric Distance is the distance from the star to the Centre of the Galaxy which is Sagittarius A*.

Travel Time to Spica

The time it will take to travel to this star is dependent on how fast you are going. U.G. has done some calculations as to how long it will take going at differing speeds. A note about the calculations, when I'm talking about years, I'm talking non-leap years only (365 days).

The New Horizons space probe is the fastest probe that we've sent into space at the time of writing. Its primary mission was to visit Pluto which at the time of launch (2006), Pluto was still a planet.

DescriptionSpeed (m.p.h.)Time (years)
Airbus A380736227,554,071.91
Speed of Sound (Mach 1)767.269218,280,416.55
Concorde (Mach 2)1,534.54109,140,066.03
New Horizons Probe33,0005,075,145.36
Speed of Light670,616,629.00249.74

Variable Type of Spica

The star is a rotating Rotating ellipsoidal variable type which means that its size changes over time. The Variable Type is usually named after the first star of that type to be spotted. Spica brightness ranges from a magnitude of 0.907 to a magnitude of 0.866 over its variable period. The smaller the magnitude, the brighter the star. Its variable/pulsating period lasts for 4.0 days (variability).

Meteor Showers Radiating from near Spica

The Alpha Virginids Meteor Shower radiants from a point near this star. The meteor shower runs typically between March 10-May 6 with a peak date of Apr. 7-18. The speed of a meteor in the shower is 19 Km/s.

Source of Information

The source of the information if it has a Hip I.D. is from Simbad, the Hipparcos data library based at the University at Strasbourg, France. Hipparcos was a E.S.A. satellite operation launched in 1989 for four years. The items in red are values that I've calculated so they could well be wrong. Information regarding Metallicity and/or Mass is from the E.U. Exoplanets. The information was obtained as of 12th Feb 2017.

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Additional Spica Facts and Figures

Visual Facts

Primary / Proper / Traditional NameSpica
Alternative NamesAlpha Virginis, Alf Vir, HD 116658, HIP 65474, HR 5056, 144 G. Virginis, 67 Virginis, 67 Vir, BD-10 3672, alf Vir
Spectral TypeB1V
Constellation's Main StarYes
Multiple Star SystemYes
Star Type Main Sequence Dwarf Star
GalaxyMilky Way
Absolute Magnitude -3.55 / -3.44
Visual / Apparent Magnitude0.98
Naked Eye VisibleYes - Magnitudes
Right Ascension (R.A.)13h 25m 11.60
Declination (Dec.)-11° 09` 40.5
Galactic Latitude50.84 degrees
Galactic Longitude316.11 degrees
1997 Distance from Earth12.44 Parallax (milliarcseconds)
 262.19 Light Years
 80.39 Parsecs
2007 Distance from Earth13.06 Parallax (milliarcseconds)
 249.74 Light Years
 76.57 Parsecs
 15,793,586.16 Astronomical Units
Galacto-Centric Distance24,025.19 Light Years / 7,366.00 Parsecs
Proper Motion Dec.-30.67 ± 0.38 milliarcseconds/year
Proper Motion RA.-42.35 ± 0.70 milliarcseconds/year
B-V Index-0.23
Radial Velocity0.00 ± 3.70 km/s
Iron Abundance-0.01 ± 9.99 Fe/H
Semi-Major Axis7199.00
Stellar Luminosity (Lsun)13,071.47
Brightest in Night Sky16th

Companions (Multi-Star and Exoplanets) Facts

Exoplanet CountNone/Unaware

Variable Star Details

Variable Star ClassRotating
Variable Star TypeRotating ellipsoidal
Mean Variability Period in Days4.015
Variable Magnitude Range (Brighter - Dimmer)0.866 - 0.907

Estimated Calculated Facts

Radius (x the Sun)7.47
Effective Temperature19,982 Kelvin
Mass Compared to the Sun11.43

Sources and Links

SIMBAD SourceLink

Multi-Star System

The star has been identified as being a multi-star system, one in which there is at least one star in close orbit to another star or two or more stars orbiting a central point. The stars may be of equal mass, unequal mass where one star is stronger than the other or be in groups orbiting a central point which doesn't necessarily have to be a star. More information can be found on my dedicated multiple star systems page. The source of the info is Simbad. The file is dated 2000 so any differences between this and any other source will be down to the actual source from where the information came from.

Proper Motion mas/yr
H.D. IdB.D. IdStar CodeMagnitudeR.A.Dec.SpectrumColourYear
116658-10 3672.0A1.20000-43.00000-33.00000B2Blue/White

Location of Spica in Virgo

Spica Location in Virgo

The map was generated using Night Vision, an awesome free application by Brian Simpson.

Virgo Main Stars

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