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Hawaiian Astronomical Society
Constellations: Libra -- Grasping the Weight of Justice
The Greeks saw Libra, perhaps the most recent constellation of the Zodiac, as the claws of the scorpion. The change from claws, while initiated by the Romans perhaps as early as the first century B.C., did not gain final acceptance as the balance scales until the Middle Ages. Sometimes the scale was associated with Astraea, Roman goddess of justice, but there is another association.
The "libra" was also a unit of weight used to balance the scale. It weighted .722 pounds (347 gm). It was abbreviated "lb.", the same as the abbreviation of the pound. The Romans used another unit of measure called the "uncia," weighing one twelfth of a libra. The "uncia" developed into the English ounce. The Anglo-Saxons referred to the constellation as either the scales or the pound.
And finally, there is spotty evidence that something other than a set of claws occupied that part of the sky before the Greeks got ahold of it.
Click the map for a 929x1200 version of the above. Click here for a map better suited for use in the field.
This is a more detailed view of the constellation. The map displays stars to magnitude 10, and deepsky objects to magnitude 12. Click here for a map better suited for use in the field.
Image on the left is one of Larry's sketches made from observations through an 8" telescope. Note the irregular shape and lack of resolution. The image on the right is from the Digital Sky Survey.