Spica (spĪˈkə) [key], brightest star in the constellation Virgo; Bayer designation Alpha Virginis; 1992 position R.A. 13h24.8m, Dec. - 11°07−. A bluish-white star of spectral class B1 V, its apparent magnitude averages about 0.96, making it one of the 20 brightest stars in the sky. Because it is an eclipsing binary star, the magnitude ranges from 0.91 to 1.01 as the two components orbit about each other within a four-day period. Spica is at a distance of about 200 light-years. Its name is Latin for "ear of grain," referring to an ear of grain held by the figure traditionally associated with the constellation Virgo.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.