Libra is Latin for weighing scales, making it the only constellation of the Zodiac representing an inanimate object instead of an animal. Libra is the 29th constellation in size, occupying an area of 538 square degrees.
Libra is in the Southern Hemisphere, located between Scorpio (to the east) and Virgo (to the west). It is a fixture of the evening sky during a Northern Hemisphere summer.
It lies in the third quadrant of the southern hemisphere (SQ3) and can be seen at latitudes between +65° and -90°. Some other neighboring constellations are Centaurus, Hydra, Lupus, Ophiuchus, and Serpens Caput.
The four brightest stars in the constellation form a quadrangle. Zubenelgenubi (Alpha Librae) and Zubeneschamali (Beta Librae) mark the scales’ balance beam, and Zubenelakrab (Gamma Librae) and Zubenalgubi (Sigma Librae) represent the weighing pans.
A blue dwarf, the brightest star in the constellation is Zubeneschamali (“the northern claw”) with a luminosity 130 times greater than the Sun. It is 160 light years distant and is the only star to appear green to the naked eye. The star is also known as Lanx Borealis (“the northern scale”).
Zubenelgenubi (“the southern claw”) is the second brightest star in the constellation. This binary star is about 77 light years away. An older Latin name for the star is Lanx Australis (“the southern scale”). Zubenelakrab (“the shears of the scorpion”) is an orange giant 152 light years from Earth. It is about 71 times more luminous than the Sun. The red giant Zubenalgubi (“southern claw”) is approximately 288 light years distant from the Sun. It is also known as Brachium (“arm”) or Cornu (“horn”).
LIBRA CONSTELLATION MYTHOLOGY
It’s truly impossible to talk about Libra mythology without also referencing the Virgo myth. The myth of the constellation Libra and the myth of the constellation Virgo are intrinsically tied together in a way that no other two constellation myths could be.
The most common and relevant explanation of the constellation Libra is that the scales that represent the Libra constellation belong to the figure of the constellation Virgo. This creates a very interesting issue for both constellation myths. If the scales are indeed that of Virgo, then it stands to reason that the figure in Virgo must have to do with justice, as that is what the scales represent. The only problem is that most people believe that the Virgo myth has to do with a virgin, a theme which seemingly has nothing to do with justice, so how does one reckon the one myth story with the other?
Okay, so we know that the myth of the constellation Libra is tied to the myth of the constellation Virgo. And we know that Astraea is the key figure who represents the Virgo zodiac symbol. Now here’s the big explanation that ties it all together: Astraea also represents Libra mythology. How can this be? One figure representing two constellation myths?
I know, it sounds a bit odd, but it makes perfect sense. Astraea was a virgin goddess of justice. The only virgin goddess of justice who was also a primary caretaker of humanity (the true meaning of Virgo). The woman holding the ear of corn in Virgo is Astraea. The scales of justice that glide by her side in the zodiac are her scales. The two never leave one another’s side, forever connecting the two constellations with a single mythology.
One story tells of Themis, daughter of Gaia, mother earth herself. Themis was in charge of the Oracle at Delphi and sat beside Zeus to offer advice. She was also the goddess of divine law, who judged whether the dead went to Tartarus or the Elysian Fields.
She is commonly portrayed as a woman holding a pair of scales in one hand, a sword in the other and wearing a blindfold as a symbol of impartiality and inner sight.
Later on, the stars of Libra were related to the myth of Astraea, daughter of Themis and Zeus. Astraea was also called the Goddess of Justice. In her great golden scales, she weighed the good and evil deeds of humanity and decided their fate. Astraea was the last of the immortals to mingle with humans on the earth. But by the end of the Golden Age, she became increasingly offended by the wickedness of humanity and returned to the heavens, joining Demeter as the constellation Virgo. A variation of this myth has Astraea returning to the heavens in such a hurry that she left her golden scales behind. Themis, as the scales, was then placed in the sky as the constellation Libra to shine beside her daughter.
Another story tells of the Libra constellation to be the Golden Chariot of the God of the Underworld, Hades, surmounted on which he emerged from his world of the dead and indulged in fornication with nymphs. He had abducted Zeus and Demeter’s daughter, Persephone in the same chariot, smitten by her pristine beauty.