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Mars and Saturn in the Scorpion’s Claws

17 Aug 2014, 00:00 UTC
Mars and Saturn in the Scorpion’s Claws
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¡SkyCaramba! Weekly astronomy blog for the week ending August 23, 2014
A few weeks ago, I told you about two planets lining up between two bright stars in our evening sky. Next week, one of the planets passes the other and keeps going.

Mars is leaving Virgo and entering Libra. In a few more weeks, it will leave Libra and keep heading east toward Scorpio. While it’s in Libra, it passes south of Saturn.
The named stars of Libra are Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali. You are correct if you think they might refer to different parts of the same thing because their names start so much alike. Zubenelgenubi is Arabic for “southern claw”. Zubeneschamali means “northern claw”. These names go back to a time before the Romans looked to that part of the sky and saw the scales. These used to be the claws of Scorpio.
These two stars do have lesser known Latin names. The southern scale is Lanx Australis and the northern scale is Lanx Borealis. They are typically held out as the scales of justice. However, at the height of the Roman Empire, the sun was in Libra during the September equinox. Night and day were of equal ...

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