In any year, you can spot the constellation Libra’s two modestly-bright yet visible stars: Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, in between the brilliant stars Antares and Spica. But this year, you’ll also see the planet Saturn shining in between the Libra stars and Spica.
If you live at mid-northern latitudes – like in North America, Europe and Asia – you’ll see these Libra stars rather low in your south to southwest sky at nightfall and early evening. As seen from middle latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere – like in Australia – the Libra stars shine close to overhead as darkness falls.
In either the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere, two beautiful first-magnitude stars help guide you to Zubenelgenubi in any year. These stellar beacons are ruddy Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius, and blue-white Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.
In 2013, the ringed planet Saturn shines close to the ecliptic and in between the zodiacal stars Spica and Zubenelgenubi. By the way, you can distinguish Saturn and Spica by color. Saturn exhibits a golden hue while Spica sparkles blue-white. If you can’t discern color with the eye alone, try looking at these colorful gems with binoculars. Or better yet, view Saturn’s gorgeous rings with a telescope.
Antares, Zubenelgenubi and Spica are called zodiacal stars, because they reside so close to the ecliptic. The ecliptic marks the sun’s annual pathway in front of the backdrop stars. If you could see the stars during the daytime, you’d see the sun pairing up with Spica in middle October, Zubenelgenubi on or near November 7 and Antares on or near December 1.