History of the Constellations

Stars and Constellations


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Contents of this page: | Description | Skylore | Modern Culture | Origin and History | Special Stars | Submit new info... |

Images (at bottom of page): | Libra Chart: (Figure 1) | Bayer, 1661, page zDd: (Figure 2) | Bayer, 1697, page I4r: (Figure 3) | Bayer, 1697, page I4v: (Figure 4) | Bayer, 1697, page K1r: (Figure 5) | Bode, 1801, page l: (Figure 6) | Aspin, 1825, page Libra: (Figure 7) | Images digitized by Hannah Magruder.

Constellation Data


Libra is the only inanimate object in the zodiac.

Skylore and Literature

Originally comprised the claws of the Scorpion, but was detached from Scorpius by the Romans to represent the vernal equinox. Has also been associated with the scales held by the goddess of justice. It was added by Julius Ceaser at the time of the establishment of the Julian calandar.

Modern Culture

Origin and History

Libra is included in the ancient star catalog of Ptolemy, and known as the Claws of the Scorpion in the catlogs of Eudoxos of Knidos and Aratos of Soli.

Special Stars

Alpha Librae is a double-star resolvable by binoculars.

Submit new info...

Many excellent websites provide a variety of information about constellations for amateur astronomers and telescope users (see sidebar links for a few of these). These constellation pages are not intended to duplicate those efforts, but are devoted to two aims: First, they are intended to assist the beginning skywatcher, including students in history of science survey courses, in becoming familiar with Basic Celestial Phenomena (BCP). Second, these pages are devoted to the history of the constellations and the history of astronomy. They are intended to serve as a repository for collaborative use and reference. Do you have additional historical information about the stars or constellation described on this page? Please submit additional information to kmagruder@ou.edu. Submissions will be attributed. Editors for historical information are Kerry Magruder, JoAnn Palmeri, Peter Barker, and Laura Gibbs.

Oklahoma History of Science exhibits: http://hos.ou.edu/exhibits/. Page revised 4/15/04

Bad links, misplaced images, or questions? Contact Kerry Magruder. Thank you.

"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown. But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile." R. W. Emerson, Nature


Figure 1 Figure 1 - Return to Text

Lib Chart
Figure 2 Figure 2 - Return to Text

Bayer, 1661

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Figure 3 Figure 3 - Return to Text

Bayer, 1697

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Bayer, 1697

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Bayer, 1697

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Bode, 1801

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Figure 7 Figure 7 - Return to Text

Aspin, 1825

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Exhibit credit: Kerry Magruder.

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These teaching resources provided by the History of Science Department at the University of Oklahoma.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries. Image Terms of Use.

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OU Disclaimer | Contacts: Content - Kerry Magruder, Website - Eric Bruning