Libra is one of the early constellations catalogued by Ptolemy in the 2nd century. Unlike the other zodiac constellations, it is not named for an animal or a character. It is named for an object, the Scales. The asterism of Libra is sometimes shown as a triangle and sometimes as a kite.
It is most visible in the month of May in the southern sky. It can be seen almost as far north as the Arctic Circle, although the long hours of daylight impede viewing along the southern horizon.
The constellations Centaurus, Hydra, Lupus, Ophiuchus, Scorpius, Serpens Caput and Virgo share a border with the Libra constellation
Right Ascension: 03:18
Diameter (°): 18
Area (square °): 538
Opposition: May 12
Size Rank: 29th
Brightness Rank: 40th
Major stars in Libra
Zubeneschamali – β Librae (Beta Librae)
Zubenelgenubi – α Librae (Alpha Librae)
Brachium – σ Librae (Sigma Librae)
Methuselah – HD 140283 – This is one of the oldest stars known.
υ Librae (Upsilon Librae)
τ Librae (Tau Librae)
Zubenelakrab – γ Librae (Gamma Librae)
θ Librae (Theta Librae)
ι Librae (Iota Librae)
Zuben Elakribi – δ Librae (Delta Librae)
Gliese 581 (HO Librae)
Gliese 570 (33 G. Librae)
Deep Sky Objects in Libra
Mythology of the Constellation Libra
Centuries ago, the Autumnal Equinox was signaled by Libra. The days and the nights were of equal length, so the sun and moon were in balance. Naturally, Libra “The Scales” is a symbol of balance.
In about 1000 BC the Babylonians called Libra “the balance of Heaven”. Again, in about 100 BC the Romans designated this area of the sky “the scales” based on the equinox. Libra, the scales, is usually seen in the left hand of Virgo (Astraea), the goddess of justice.
In a few very old versions of the zodiac, Astraea the virgin is not shown. The zodiacs of Esne and Dendera are examples. Humboldt thinks that although the Romans introduced this constellation into their zodiac in the reign of Julius Caesar, it may have been used by the Egyptians and other nations of very remote antiquity.
Libra is shown on Egyptian hieroglyphics. Simultaneously an argument of the great antiquity of the asterism and of the probability of having been fabricated originally by the astronomical sons of Mizraim.
Prior to being known as the scales, it was known as the “Claws” and was associated with the claws of the neighboring constellation Scorpius, the scorpion. The two brightest stars in Libra are still known by their Arabic names. Zubeneschamali is “the northern claw” and Zubenelgenubi is “the southern claw.”
It is generally supposed that the figure of the scales has been used by all nations to denote the balance of temperature between the days and nights. It has been observed that when the sun arrives at this sign, the season has a greater uniformity in temperature over all the Earth’s surface, not merely between day and night.
Others say only the beam of the balance was at first placed among the stars, and that the Egyptians thus honored it as their Nileometer with which they measured the inundations of the Nile. The biblical prophet is thought to be alluding to this scale of measurement when he describes the Almighty as “measuring the waters in the hollow of his hand.” (Isaiah 40:12)
The Greeks say the balance was placed among the stars to perpetuate the memory of Mochos, the inventor of the scale or balance. Early Christians assigned St. Philip the Apostle as representing Libra. In the book of Daniel, it is identified as the balance. (Verse 27)
To the Chinese it was Show Sing, sign of longevity and also Tien Ching, the celestial balance. Those who refer the constellations of the zodiac to the 12 tribes of Israel ascribe the balance to Asher. Encyclopedia Judaica, however, assigns Libra to Ephraim.
Sun Enters: September 23
Sun Leaves: October 23
Trait: Harmonious together
Positives: Charming, pleasant to live with, a firm friend once a friend, great romantic, idealistic, capable of elegance and diplomacy
Negatives: Indecisive, frivolous, flirtatious, operating between two extreme attitudes too close to each other, oscillating, cruelly humorous
As a Child: Affectionate
Emotional: In love with love
Career: Involved in travel