LIBRA, the SCALES, pronounced LEE-brah

Chart showing the constellation.

Libra the Scales or Balance is the seventh zodiacal constellation. The ancient Greeks knew it as the "Claws of the Scorpion", an extension of neighbouring Scorpius, but the Romans made it into a separate constellation in the time of Julius Caesar. Since then the Scales of Libra have become regarded as the symbol of justice, held aloft by the goddess of justice, Astraea. One legend identifies Astraea with the neighbouring figure of Virgo.

The four principal stars of Libra form a trapezium preceding the head of Scorpius.

To find Libra look towards the north in the evening sky and find orange Antares the heart of Scorpius, the scorpion. Libra is to the left of the head of Scorpius.

Chart showing the constellation as seen to the north just before 8 pm mid July.

Libra constellation

Constellation Centaurus Constellation Hydra Constellation Lupus Constellation Scorpius Constellation Sagittarius Constellation Scutum Constellation Serpens Constellation Ophicuhus Constellation Serpens Constellation Virgo

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Librae (Zubenelgenubi, the southern claw), is a wide binocular double consisting of a blue-white magnitude 2.8 star with a white companion of magnitude 5.2. It is 77 light years away.

β Lib (Zubeneschamali, northern Claw), is a magnitude 2.6 star, celebrated as one of the few bright stars with a greenish tinge. It lies 160 light years away.

γ (Zubenelakrab, scorpion's claw), is a magnitude 3.9 yellow giant star 152 light years away.

δ Lib is a white eclipsing variable star of the Algol type 304 light years away. It varies between magnitudes 4.8 and 5.9 every 2.327 days. Here the eclipse of the brighter star by the larger but fainter star is only partial.

ι Lib is a multiple star 377 light years away. Its main blue-white magnitude 4.5 component star has a 10th magnitude faint equal pair accompanying it. The bright star is a close binary and there is spectroscopic evidence for another component to the bright star, so the system is probably quintuple.

μ Lib is a pair of pale yellow stars 235 light years away shining at magnitudes 5.8 and 6.7.

48 Lib is a magnitude 4.9 shell star. It is a blue giant 513 light years away, with an abnormally high speed of rotation that causes it to throw off a ring of gas from its equator.

NGC 5897 is a large irregularly round globular cluster 42,000 light years away. It appears loosely scattered and unspectacular in small telescopes.

Visibility Libra is to the north in New Zealand at 9 pm early in July. It is visible at this time of night from early April, when it will have just risen, to early October when it will be close to setting.