Deeper into Jeopardy! XL: Zodiac Constellations – $1600

Jeopardy! category: ZODIAC CONSTELLATIONS (12-3-2015)

$1600 clue: Spica, her brightest star, is held in her left hand

Correct response

The gist: Sagittarius gets a bow, Aquarius gets a water jug, and she gets… some corn.The name of Spica, the brightest star in Virgo (August 23-September 22), refers to its interpretation by the ancient Greeks as an ear of corn in the hand of Demeter, the goddess of vegetation and fertility. And while I set this post up to make that seem pretty boring, a bit of corn had real ceremonial importance to the Greeks – the culmination of the Eleusinian mysteries, a very popular Athenian mystery religion devoted to Demeter, may have been the “revelation” to the worshiper of an ear of corn or sheaf of wheat, so seeing the goddess in the sky with her own bit of vegetable matter could have been a powerful reminder of what one’s life depended on back then (and today, too, we just tend to forget that more). The Babylonians associated Virgo with fertility as well, seeing it as their similar goddess Shala.

Lucky Virgo has plenty of bright stars besides Spica, as well as a few with notable exoplanets, like Chi Virginis with the most massive known exoplanet at 11.1 times the mass of Jupiter, and several multi-planet systems (the constellation has 35 confirmed planets in total). Its many fascinating deep-space objects include quasar 3C 273, the first quasar, the most energetic and brightest (though not from Earth) objects in the universe, to ever be discovered. It also not only has a namesake galaxy cluster, a gravitational clumping of 1300-200 galaxies, but never content with resting on its laurels it also lays claim to the Virgo Supercluster, a gravitational clumping of more than a hundred galaxy clusters.

Virgo, between Libra and Leo. Spica is the second brightest star in this bit of stellar map

The clue: The key to this one is simple: “her.” Only one Zodiac constellation represents a female figure. If you know which one, you know this one.

In Jeopardy!: Virgo appears in 29 clues in the J!Archive. What it represents – maiden, virgin, young woman, etc. – is in just ten of those clues, fewer than most of the constellations get. For whatever reason, most of Virgo’s clues are about its astrological time of year and people born during that time or ts two neighbour constellations. Who knows why, but I guess this is one you’re best off just learning the dates for. Boring, I know, but I guess the Jeopardy! writers don’t like Virgo’s subject matter. I’ll leave their reasoning to themselves.

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