The Lyre, or harp, is situated directly south of the first coil of Draco between the Swan on the east and Hercules on the west. Although it is not a large constellation, it is the 17th brightest constellation in the night sky.
Vega, a brilliant blue-white star of 0 magnitude is the 2nd brightest in the Northern sky. It is the brightest of the summer triangle with Deneb and Altair. It has been predicted that Vega will replace Polaris as the pole star in about 13,000 years because of precession of the Earth’s North Pole.
Lyra, because of Vega, is easy to locate. Lyra also contains the Ring Nebula of some interest to astronomers.
The constellation Lyra can be viewed from throughout the northern hemisphere and as far south as Cape Town, South Africa.
There are only 4 constellations bordering Lyra. They are Cygnus, Draco, Hercules and Vulpecula.
Right Ascension: 06:41
Diameter (°): 5
Area (square °): 286
Opposition: Jul 01
Size Rank: 52nd
Brightness Rank: 17th
Major or notable stars in Lyra
Vega – α Lyrae (Alpha Lyrae)
Sulafat – γ Lyrae (Gamma Lyrae)
Sheliak –β Lyrae (Beta Lyrae)
δ Lyrae (Delta Lyrae)
The Double Double – ε Lyrae (Epsilon Lyrae)
κ Lyrae (Kappa Lyrae)
Alathfar – μ Lyrae (Mu Lyrae)
Kuiper 90 (17 Lyrae C, Gliese 747AB)
Deep Sky Objects in Lyra
Messier 56 (M56, NGC 6779)
Ring Nebula – Messier 57 (M57, NGC 6720)
Mythology of the Constellation Lyra
It’s generally agreed that this is the celestial lyre, an ancient stringed musical instrument. Apollo is said to have given the lyre to Orpheus, the son of King Oeagrus and the muse Calliope. Orpheus was the musician of the Argonauts who drowned out the song of the Sirens with his beautiful music. He played the lyre so well that even the fastest rivers slowed to listen, the wild beasts of the forest forgot their ill manners, and the mountains moved to listen to his song.
Of all the nymphs who used to listen to his song, Euydice was the only one who made a deep impression on the musician. They were married, but their happiness was short-lived. On the day of their wedding, the satyr Aristaeus became enamored of Eurydice. As she fled, a serpent lurking in the grass bit her foot and she died of the wound.
Orpheus resolved to get her back or die trying. With his lyre in hand, he entered the infernal regions and gained an audience with Pluto (Hades). The king of Hell was charmed with Orpheus’ music. The wheel of Ixion stopped, the stone of Sisyphus stood still, Tantalus forgot his thirst, and even the Furies relented.
Pluto and Prosarpine (Hades and Persephone) were moved, and agreed to give Eurydice back, provided Orpheus agreed not to look back until he’d gotten to the farthest borders of Hell.
Orpheus agreed and when he reached the upper regions, he turned back happily to look at his beloved Eurydice. He saw her, but it was too soon. She had not reached the border yet and vanished forever from his sight. He tried to follow her but was refused admission. Something like the biblical story of Lot’s wife.
Inconsolable, Orpheus withdrew from the society of mankind. This so offended the female followers of Dionysus, the Thracian Maenads, they tore his body to pieces as he continued to call the name of Eurydice. After his death he received divine honors, and his lyre became one of the constellations. Orpheus had been one of the Argonauts, and wrote a poetic account of that adventure which is available to us today.