constellations libra

Libra’s Neighbors

The alpha star of Libra is a binary star system 77 light years from earth. Beta Librae, more luminous than the alpha, is much farther away at 170 light years and is said to be a rare green colored star.

The brightest stars of Libra form a set of scales, the only Zodiac constellation that represents an inanimate object rather than a mythical beast or warrior. The Scales are said to belong to Astraea, the Goddess of Justice. The poet Ovid explained that Astraea fled the dangers of the war-torn earth to become the maiden of the constellation Virgo to the north-east.

The history of the constellation Libra is also connected with Scorpio to the west, as the stars of Libra were once the claws of the scorpion in Scorpio. The alpha and beta stars of Libra have the cool names Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, meaning “southern claw” and “northern claw.”

In the first century BCE, Roman astronomers rearranged this region of the sky, connecting the two brightest stars with the gamma star to create the likeness of a balance.

LIB image

Libra is a small midsummer constellation with just one deep sky object within its boundaries. NGC 5897 is over 40,000 light years from earth, a bright and distant open star cluster.