The three brightest stars of Libra form a faint triangle making it easier to locate.
- Libra is a fairly small and dim constellation with no very bright stars.
- The constellation is visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
- In the Northern hemisphere Libra can be seen from April to July.
- In the Southern hemisphere the constellation can be viewed in the autumn and winter months.
- Locating the bright star Arcturus in the neighboring constellation of Scorpius makes it easier to find Libra, follow the star up and to the west.
- The Gliese 581 system is located within the boundaries of the constellation, it consists of a red dwarf star orbited by at least four planets.
- Libra is one of the few ancient constellations which represents an inanimate object.
- The Latin word for scales is libra.
- Libra has been recognized as a constellation for at least 4,000 years.
- Libra is also one of the twelve signs of the astrological zodiac.
The scales of LIbra represent balance, harmony, law and fairness.
Unlike the other ancient constellations Libra is not entwined with Greek mythology. In fact ancient Greeks viewed the pattern of stars as part of the adjacent constellation of Scorpius, representing the claw of the scorpion. The origins of Libra being perceived as scales goes back even further than ancient Greece, to the ancient Babylonians some 2,000 years earlier. The Babylonians associated Libra with balance and this may not have been solely down to its shape. At that time the sun would have fallen in the constellation of Libra at the autumn equinox, a time of the year between the warm and cold seasons and when day and night are of equal length.
A few thousand years later the Romans also identified the constellation as scales but not for the same reasons as suggested above. Instead the scales of Libra were associated with their God of Justice, Astraea, personified as the nearby constellation of Virgo. Libra’s association with law and fairness stems from the Roman version of the constellation.
Main Stars in the Libra Constellation
The number next to each star is its apparent magnitude, its brightness from our point of view
on Earth, the lower the number the brighter the star in the night sky.
Also known as Beta Librae, Zuben Elschemali is a whitish-blue main sequence star around 185 light years from Earth and is the brightest star in the constellation,
it has around five times the radius of the sun with surface temperatures more than twice as hot.
Also known as Alpha Librae, Zuben Elgenubi is actually a double star composed of two binary systems, meaning Zuben Elgenubi is actually four stars although it
appears as one single star from Earth. Double stars appear close from our point of view on Earth but may actually be separated by a large distance.
Also known as Sigma Librae, Brachium is a red giant around 300 light years from Earth.
Finding Libra - Northern Hemisphere
The chart shows the position of Libra over most of the United States in July at 10pm. This chart can also be applied to other areas of the Northern hemisphere such as Canada, the UK and Europe.
In the Northern hemisphere Libra is visible low in the southern night sky.
In April Libra will appear low on the south-eastern horizon around midnight, gradually moving across the southern horizon until day breaks.
From May to June the constellation will be visible low in the south-eastern sky from around 10pm and dip below the south-western horizon at around 4am.
In July it will appear low in the southern night sky at at around 10pm before disappearing below the south-western horizon around 3 hours later.
Finding Libra - Southern Hemisphere
The chart shows the position of Libra over most of Australia in early winter at 9pm. This chart can also be applied to other areas of the Southern hemisphere such as New Zealand, South Africa and South America.
In the Southern hemisphere Libra is visible high in the northern night sky.
In April Libra will be visible low in the eastern night sky from around 10pm, gradually moving higher before reaching overhead by around 3am.
In May and June the constellation will appear in the eastern night sky at around 8pm moving higher as the night moves on, at around midnight it will begin to descend towards
the western horizon.
In July and August it will appear high in the northern night sky at around 8pm, heading towards the western horizon over the next few hours.
In September Libra will be visible high in the western night sky from around 8pm, before disappearing below the western horizon around midnight.