The Lyre constellation is one of the smallest constellations of the 88, recognized by the International Astronomical Union.
We find six prominent stars, deep-sky Messier objects, and the Ring Nebula in Lyra.
Keep reading to learn essential facts and myths about the Lyra constellation. We’ll also discuss its location in the night sky, what we use the Lyre constellation for and where to find it in the night sky.
Later, we will summarize the prominent stars that make up this harp-shaped constellation.
Lyra Constellation Facts
The Lyre Constellation is visible year-round in the northern hemisphere and sometimes visible in the southern hemisphere according to the season.
Astronomers use the image of an Eagle or bird carrying a harp or “lyre” to the Lyra constellation in the night sky.
The Lyra constellation is home to the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere and contains two Messier objects from the Messier Catalog.
The constellation of Lyra depicts the magical lyre of Orpheus in Greek mythology.
Aside from being a symbol of the most popular figure known for charming living things and inanimate objects with his hypnotic music, Lyra also helps us locate the Summer Triangle.
Myths About The Lyra Constellation
The Lyra constellation belongs to the Hercules family of constellations.
In Greek mythology, Lyra represents the lyre of Orpheus. Orpheus was a musician and poet.
They famously knew him for being a member of the search party headed by Jason, who was seeking the location of the Golden Fleece.
We know Orpheus for being able to charm every living thing and even some inanimate objects with the music of his lyre.
In Greek mythology, Orpheus delved underground into Hades to rescue his late wife, Eurydice, banished to the underworld.
He recovered his wife by charming the guardians of the underworld with hypnotic music.
Greek mythology says Hermes constructed the magical lyre and then passed it on to his half-brother Apollo as a gift.
Subsequently, Apollo, the God of music, re-gifted the lyre and gave it to Orpheus as a gift as a child.
The lyre constellation represents the spirit of a fallen Orpheus, killed by Bacchantes.
When Bacchantes killed Orpheus, Zeus retrieved the lyre from a river and memorialized both Orpheus and his Lyre as an eagle and lyre shining brightly in the night sky.
Location of the Lyra Constellation in the Night Sky
The Lyra constellation is in the fourth quadrant of the northern hemisphere (NQ4). We can see it year-round at latitudes between +90° and -40°.
Home to Vega, one of the brightest stars in our solar system, astronomers and stargazing enthusiasts say the easiest way to locate Lyra is first to find the Northern Cross, located inside the Summer Triangle.
Vega, the brightest star in Lyra, is a part of the Summer Triangle along with other constellations and asterisms, including the Altair constellation and the Cygnus constellation.
Where Can We See The Lyra Constellation?
We can see the Lyra constellation in both the northern and southern hemispheres depending on the season.
We find Lyra by searching for the bright star Vega.
Vega represents the tail of the Lyre constellation and is easily identifiable because of its magnitude.
How Can Amateurs Find The Lyra Constellation?
People new to stargazing can identify Lyra by first locating Vega, which lives in the tail of the famous harp constellation.
Once you’ve identified Vega, you can star hop to the nearby constellation of Cygnus by following Deneb in Cygnus and Altair in Aquila.
The combination of these three stars makes up the asterism we know as the “Summer Triangle.”
What Do People Use The Lyra Constellation For?
Also known as the “harp constellation”, we use Lyra to find cosmic neighbors and deep-sky objects, including the Summer Triangle, Cluster M56, and the Ring Nebula.
Which Stars are in The Lyra Constellation?
Lyra comprises six prominent stars that shine brightly in the night sky.
Below, we summarize the brightest and most notable stars that make up the Lyra constellation.
Vega – [Alpha Lyrae]
Twice the size of our sun, we know Vega as the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere with an apparent magnitude of 0.03.
Vega belongs to the class of stars we know as “white dwarfs and is around 25 light-years from earth.
This white dwarf is not only the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere, but it’s also the fifth brightest star in the sky.
Vega was the northern pole star and we expect it to regain its status around 13,727 AD.
Sulaphat – [Gamma Lyrae ]
We know Sulaphat by the name Gamma Lyrae and as the second brightest star in the Lyra constellation.
It has an apparent magnitude of 3.261 and is a blue-white giant.
Sulaphat and Sheliak represent the strings in the Lyre constellation.
The surface temperature of Sulaphat hovers around 10,000 Kelvin (K). We estimate the distance of Sulaphat from the sun to be around 620 light-years.
Sheliak – [Beta Lyrae]
Sheliak, also known as Beta Lyrae, is near Sulaphat in the Lyre constellation.
It comprises a binary star system with an apparent magnitude of 3.52.
We can see this binary star system with a telescope.
It has a variable magnitude caused by the movement of its two companion stars that orbit each other within the Lyra constellation.
We estimate the distance of Beta Lyrae is close to 960 light-years away from the Sun.
R Lyrae is a red giant around 350 light-years away from Earth.
This semi-regular pulsating star often appears to be increasing in brightness when we find it in the Lyra constellation.
We can see R Lyrae with the naked eye as it has an apparent visual magnitude that falls between 3.9 and 5.0
Delta Lyra is a blue-white dwarf inside a binary star system.
The binary stars of Lyra’s harp-shaped constellation have an apparent visual magnitude between 5.5 and 9.8.
We need a telescope to distinguish one star from another in this star system, which is approximately 75 million years old.
The five stars above are the most well-known members of the Lyre constellation.
This constellation contains a wide variety of deep-sky objects that include the following.
- Messier 56 – NGC 6779
- Messier 57 – Ring Nebula
- NCG 6791
New stargazers can find the Lyra constellation visible in the northern hemisphere just about any time of year.
This harp-shaped constellation is the easiest to find in August at around 10 pm.