Getting to know Libra

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Light and dark, warm and cold, this and that.

Now is the season of Libra, the constellation of "the scales" and the balance they can represent.

In the 12-sign zodiac - the band of sky that contains all the "signs" people look up in their astrological readings - Libra is hemmed in by Virgo (the maiden) and Scorpio (the scorpion). However, in the astronomical partitioning of the sky, Libra is one of the 88 constellations.

Astronomy and astrology, intertwined as they are through history, are a little disjointed when it comes to the length of time the sun actually spends there. The sun, the source of warmth and light on Earth both literally and metaphorically, will transit through the constellation Libra throughout much of November. However, the sun moved out of the (astrological) earth sign of Virgo and into the air sign of Libra on Saturday (Sept. 23), just after the autumnal equinox.

The equinox is the halfway point between those feel-good vibes of summer and the quieter, sleepier moods of winter. It's also the halfway point in terms of light. Day meets night as equals.

Hence the scales.

Interestingly, Libra is the only zodiacal sign represented by neither a human nor an animal (or, like Sagittarius, the centaur, a hybrid).

Within the constellation Libra are its two brightest stars, Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali. No, they don't roll easily off the tongue. The root of their names - Arabic for "claw" - points to the history of the sign. Instead of standing alone as its own constellation, Libra was once an extension of the scorpion with Libra's two brightest stars its north and south claw.

The constellation is currently trailing the sun by a few degrees, so if you're hoping to soak in the nighttime sights of Libra, you're almost out of luck.

In the study of astrology, justice and fairness are the stars of this show.

Those born under the sign of Libra (and those with Libra as their ascendant, or rising sign) are generally known for their even-handedness. But be warned: Making decisions (the heart of finding balance) does not come without great effort.

Libra is poised to accomplish its job as the great bringer of balance when we are willing to consider what in our lives might be out of balance - job, family, friends, finances or other resources. Libra will not itself bring everything into perfect harmony, but it certainly prompts us to consider how we can go about doing so.

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