Lyra Constellation
lyra constellation
Lyra is one of the smallest constellations but contains one of the brightest stars.
Lyra Constellation Facts
  • Lyra is visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
  • In the Northern hemisphere the constellation can be seen from April to December.
  • In the Southern hemisphere Lyra can be viewed low on the northern horizon in the winter months.
  • The brightest star in this small constellation is Vega, which is also the fifth brightest star in the night sky.
  • Vega is also part of the 'Summer Triangle' asterism, along with the stars Deneb and Altair.
  • The Summer Triangle is formed by the brightest stars in each of the constellations of Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila.
  • An asterism is a group of stars which form a pattern in the night sky but is not a constellation in itself.
  • The beautiful Ring Nebula can be found within the Lyra constellation, between the stars of Sulafet and Sheliak.
  • The Ring Nebula is a planetary nebula, these form when stars similar in size to our own sun shed their mass at the end of their lifespan.

Lyra Mythology

lyra mythology
Lyra is Latin for lyre, a type of ancient instrument similar to a harp.
The constellation of Lyra is associated with Greek mythology and based around the character of Orpheus, a famed musician with such extraordinary talent that he was even able to charm nature itself with his music. Orpheus married the beautiful Eurydice, the daughter of the god of the sun Apollo. He was blissful in his marriage until one day Eurydice was bitten by a poisonous snake and later died from her injury.
Orpheus was so devastated by her death he decided to descend into the underworld in an attempt to claim her back. Once there Orpheus charmed the gods of the underworld with his music who granted his wish to be reunited with his wife, with one condition, Orpheus was not allowed to look at Eurydice until they had left the underworld. Unfortunately Orpheus looked back at the following Eurydice before they reached Earth and she descended back from where she came. The heartbroken Orpheus took his own life to become reunited with his wife, upon his death his lyre was placed amongst the stars by Zeus.

Main Stars in the Lyra Constellation
lyra constellation
The number next to each star is its apparent magnitude, its brightness from our point of view on Earth, the lower the number the brighter the star in the night sky.
Vega
Also known as Alpha Lyrae, like our sun Vega is a main sequence star but with surface temperatures almost twice as hot, this bluish-white star which lies around 25 light years from Earth is not only the brightest in the constellation but one of the brightest stars in the night sky. Vega has around twice the mass of the sun and is a around two and half times as large in diameter, the star is surrounded by a large disc of debris and is possibly orbited by a large Jupiter size planet.
Sheliak
Also known as Beta Lyrae, Sheliak is a binary star system around 1,000 light years from Earth, the larger of the two stars has a mass around 13 times that of the sun and is around 30 times larger in diameter, with surface temperatures around 6 times that of the sun the larger star of the pair is around 25,000 times as luminous.
Sulafet
Also known as Gamma Lyrae, Sulafet is a blue giant star around 600 light years from Earth, it is around 15 times larger than the sun in diameter with surface temperatures around twice as hot.

Finding Lyra - Northern Hemisphere
finding lyra northern hemisphere
The chart shows the position of Lyra over most of the United States in early-summer at midnight. This chart can also be applied to other areas of the Northern hemisphere such as Canada, the UK and Europe.
From April to May Lyra will appear low on the horizon in the north-east around 11pm gradually moving higher in the sky before day breaks.
From June to July the constellation will appear in the east around 10 pm gradually moving higher until it is directly over head.
From August to September Lyra will appear overhead around 10 pm, slowly dipping towards the horizon in the north-west over the next few hours.
From October to December it will be visible high in the western sky between 6 and 7 pm before disappearing below the horizon several hours later.

Finding Lyra - Southern Hemisphere
finding lyra southern hemisphere
The chart shows the position of Lyra over most of Australia in mid-winter at 11 pm. This chart can also be applied to other areas of the Southern hemisphere such as New Zealand, South Africa and South America.
Throughout July to August Lyra will appear low on the northern horizon between the hours of 8 pm to 11 pm, rising later in early winter and earlier in late winter, the constellation will stay low on the horizon moving westward for around 5 hours before dipping below the horizon.


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