Libra is the only zodiac constellation representing an object, while all others represent an animal or a mythological character.
Libra is basically one of the constellation of the zodiac. In fact, it was officially recognized as the seventh zodiac sign. In primitive times, this constellation was affiliated with the sound judgment of the living and the dead. Being the sole inanimate zodiac sign among the other representatives, the name Libra
is originally derived from Latin, which means, 'weighing scales'
. Therefore, it is also called the constellation of The Scales
Astronomy says that the constellation of Libra is sparingly visible and also, there are barely any first magnitude stars confined within them. So, where is Libra exactly located in the sky? Well, it is located on the ecliptic in between Virgo to the west and Scorpius to the east. Apart from these two, the neighboring constellations of Libra are Serpens Caput, Centaurus, Hydra, Lupus, and Ophiuchus. It is observed that this constellation is best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere during the months of spring.Note: In the sky, the plane on which the sun, moon, and various planets travel across is called the ecliptic. As the Earth orbits the sun on the same plane, the sun appears to pass in front of different constellations. Such constellations on the ecliptic are called Zodiac constellations.
Astronomical history says that once Libra constellation was a part of the Virgo constellation, the Virgin, and later, it became a part of the Scorpion constellation, the Scorpius, which depicted its claws. The scales looked like claws hung upside down. Considering the clear reference of the Scorpion's past, the two brightest stars confined in this constellation are pertained to as ― northern claw and southern claw. Also, maximum stars dwelling are dimmer and they form a triangular picture with two lines extended downward from each of its ends. This depicts a picture of a basket holding objects or items that are being weighed. Perhaps looking with an astronomical viewpoint, I see the universe being so naturally amazing! This reminds me of a poem by Marcus Manilius, which is genuinely imputed to the constellation of Libra:
"When springtime begins to raise, blessed is he, who is born under Libras balance. As judge he shall weigh the burdens of life and death; He will order the scales of his authority upon the world and make law. Cities and kingdoms will tremble before him, and be guided by his commandments alone, while after his stay upon earth, judgment in the heavens awaits for himself." ― Marcus Manilius
The term, Libra was coined by the Romans. It is often believed that Astraea ― the Goddess of Justice, became disenchanted with the people on earth and went up to the heaven. She would often weigh the good deeds of humans on her balance and determine their fate. Thus, you will often see her statue, which is usually put up over the domes of court houses, holding the scales or balance.
To delve further to the depth of this subject, let's take a look to what the stars display.
The Stars of Libra: The Constellation of Scales
Libra Constellation Stars
It is studied that the brightest stars in this constellation form a Quadrangle. In the triangle formation, the star which is located to the south or to the right of the triangle is called Zubenelgenubi, which means 'southern claw' of magnitude 2.75, also known as, Alpha Librae ― α Librae or α Lib. α Librae is the second brightest star in the Libra constellation of spectral type A3 and is located approximately 77 light-years from the sun. This star has a stellar companion, and that object has a magnitude measuring 5.15 and position angle is 314 degrees. These double stars in the star astronomy are called binary stars (visual binary). The separation between them gives an angular distance of 231'' (3'51''). They can easily be distinguished if observed through binoculars.
Now, in the constellation Zubeneschamali the name means 'northern claw'. There is a star located at the top of the triangle, at a magnitude of 2.61. It is also known as Beta Librae ― β Librae or β Lib (main sequence star). According to astronomy, it is a blue dwarf star of the spectral type B8, and is the brightest with a luminosity 130 times greater than the sun. It is located at 160 light-years away from earth. The constellation, Zubeneschamali is known to be the remnant from the time frame when Libra was a part of the Scorpion ― the Scorpius.
Third, is the Zubenelakrab, also known as, Gamma Librae ― γ Librae, γ Lib, which means, 'scorpions claws'. It happens to mark the last spot of the triangle of Libra. This star belongs to the spectral class of stars namely, K0III, which means that the star is orange in its color and is ranked as the fourth-magnitude star. γ Librae from earth, is located 152 light-years away and has an apparent magnitude of +3.91.
Far located from the limits with Scorpius constellation, the fourth star, Brachium or Sigma Librae ― σ Librae, σ Lib, stretches down beneath the point of Zubenelgenubi, and is well found within the Libra constellation. Belonging to the spectral class M3-III, the remarkable properties noted are its red color. Situated 292 light-years away, σ Librae has an apparent magnitude of +3.25. Also as per observations, two stars extend down from Zubenelakrab and lie at the border with Lepus constellation. They are namely, Upsilon Librae ― magnitude 3.60 and Tau Librae ― magnitude 3.66.
Facts about Libra Constellation
- It has a Symbol (Unicode ♎).
- Best time to see Libra is in the month of June.
- It has right ascension: 15 h; Declination: ―15 degrees; Quadrant: SQ3
- Its constellation size rank is 29.
- Other cluster and globular objects in the constellation are NGC 5897 (Globular Cluster)
- Nearest stars are HD 131977, which are about 19.3 light years away.
- Meteor Showers are observed in the month of May (May 1―9, with peak on May 6). These meteor showers are called May Librids.
- Some conceive Libra as the Chariot of the rich one (an alternative name for the underworld God Hades). But according to the myth, Scorpio claws are formed. The only Zodiac which doesn't exemplify a living creature.
- The symbolic meaning of the star, Gamma Librae, is originally derived from Zubānā an Arabic name, which means both 'scorpion' and 'weighing scale'.
- Some 400 years ago, when zodiac was at the early stage of development, the sun passed through this constellation at the autumnal equinox i.e., (September 21st). Thus, astronomically it is proved that during Spring and Autumn, the two equinoxes, the hours of the daylight and darkness are known to be equal.
- It is known to be the home to the star, Gliese 581, having a planetary system of six planets, and has one of them named Gliese 581c, which is found to be an Earth-like planet in its habitable zone.
After going through this amazing information about Libra, wouldn't you like to observe it with your own eyes? So, go star gazing tonight and see if you can spot a Libra in the sky!