Constellation of Libra
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Constellation of Libra
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Image and text ©2008 Akira Fujii/David Malin Images.

In the picture above north is at the top and the image covers 30.0 x 37.5 degrees.
Image centre is located at 15:38:03.6, -19:56:04 (H:M:S, D:M:S, J2000) Astrometric data from

Best seen in the early evening in June

Libra, The Scales is an ambivalent constellation in that it was created by the Romans during the reign of Julius Caesar from the rather empty patch of sky westward of neighbouring Scorpius. The ancient Greeks knew the stars of what is now Libra as the Claws of the Scorpion and the star names preserve their ancient origins. The names Zuben Eschamali, Zuben Elgenubi and Zuben Elakrab are besed on the Arabic words for northern claw, southern claw, and the scorpion's claw respectively.

The Roman interpretation reflects that of ancient Egypt, where the main stars are known as the northern and southern scales, as in a balance-beam weighting device. Ptolemy and other classical writers refer to the group as both the Scales and as the Claws, and there is a link in this idea to the adjoining constellation of Virgo, where the female figure is sometimes shown as holding the Scales of Justice. There is also an alternative representation of the scales.

Libra is a constellation of the Zodiac, the only one that does not represent some kind of real or imaginary creature. The Sun was in Libra during the (northern) autumnal equinox in Roman times, again adding to the idea of balance between day and night. However, precession has now shifted the point where the Sun moves south of the ecliptic into Virgo.

Named stars in Libra: (Greek alphabet)
Brachium (σ Lib. Derakrab Borealis (υ Lib), Zuben Elakrab (γ Lib), Zuben Elakribi (δ Lib), Zuben Elgenubi (α2 Lib), Zuben Eschemali (β Lib).

Constellations adjoining Libra:
Centaurus, Hydra, Lupus, Ophiuchus, Scorpius, Serpens, Virgo.

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David Malin, 2017 April 29.