Libra, one of the fainter zodiacal constellations, can now be seen in our southern sky as soon as it gets dark. An oblong star pattern, it owes its importance solely to its position in the zodiac.
From the time of the Caesars, who sought credit for having this sign placed in the heavens in honor of their even-handed justice, it has often been represented as some sort of weighing device.
Of the twelve zodiacal constellations, Libra is the only star pattern that does not represent a person or an animal. The alpha and beta stars have the delightful names of Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, Arabic for southern and northern claws, clearly implying an earlier identification with those parts of Scorpius, the scorpion, just to the east.
Today, however, based on international agreement, there is a strict division of these two constellations. Zubeneschamali, which appears whitish to some, has been described by others as possessing a “beautiful pale green” hue and is possibly the only green naked-eye star.
See the Moon and Saturn
Not far away, in the neighboring constellation of Ophiuchus, is Saturn — probably the first thing most people will turn to when setting up a telescope at dusk in July. The ringed planet is well up in the south by late twilight. Look for it below the Moon on the 6th.