StarDate logo
Moon in the Claw

The Moon slides toward one of the claws of the scorpion tonight as though it were being dragged in.

The claw is represented by the star Zubenelgenubi. The name means “the southern claw,” even though the star is well away from the scorpion. Instead, it’s part of the present-day constellation Libra, the balance scales. But before Libra was first drawn, the scorpion’s grasp extended far from its body.

No one knows exactly when the claws were lopped off. As early as 3,000 years ago, Babylonians called that region “the balance of heaven.” At the time, the Sun appeared against those stars at the fall equinox — a time when day and night are roughly equal — a time of “balance” in the heavens.

Libra doesn’t show up in the skylore of Greece or Rome until centuries later. And even then, some records continue to describe the region as the scorpion’s claws.

Libra is one of the 12 constellations of the zodiac — a word that means “circle of animals.” It’s the only constellation that doesn’t represent a living thing — not since it was severed from the body of the scorpion.

Zubenelgenubi stands close to the left of the Moon at nightfall. As the hours tick by, the Moon will slide closer to the star. The scorpion itself curls well to the lower left of the pair, down to just above the horizon. It’s easy to spot because its “heart” is marked by the bright orange star Antares.

Script by Damond Benningfield

Today's program was made possible by Mercer Caverns, in Calaveras County in California's historic Gold Country.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top