Star Names:

Lyra


Map of The Constellation of Lyra
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Lyra is a constellation in the northern hemisphere. It was introduced by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century. The constellation is associated with the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus, the great musician killed by the Bacchantes. Orpheus carried with him the first lyre ever made, invented by Hermes and given to him by the god Apollo. After Orpheus' death, Zeus dispatched an eagle to fetch the lyre from the river into which it had fallen and then turned both into constellations in the sky. The lyre became the constellation Lyra and the eagle became Aquila. The constellation is sometimes depicted as an eagle or a vulture carrying a lyre and was also once known as Aquila Cadens ("falling eagle") or Vultur Cadens ("falling vulture").

The constellation Lyra occupies an area of 286 square degrees and contains five stars with known planets. It can be seen at latitudes between +90° and -40° and is best visible at 9 p.m. during the month of August.

The brightest star in Lyra is [5350] alpha Lyrae, better known as Vega, the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere and fifth brightest star in the sky. Lying only about 25 light-years away, Vega was the first star outside our solar system to have its photograph taken. Its name derives from the Arabic phrase "al-nasr al-waqi," which means either "the swooping eagle" or "the swooping vulture." Along with stars [435] Altair in Aquila and [3067] Deneb in Cygnus, Vega forms the Summer Triangle, an asterism that can be seen overhead in mid-northern latitudes in the summer.

Around the year 12,000 BC, Vega was the polar star. In northern Polynesia, it was known as "whetu o te tau," or "the year star" because at one point it marked the beginning of a new year. Assyrians called the star the "Judge of Heaven," while the Akkadian name for it was Tir-ana, or "Life of Heaven." To ancient Babylonian astronomers, Vega represented one of the "Messengers of Light." The Chinese identify the star with Zhi Nu, a fairy separated from her mortal husband and children. The Japanese, who call the star Orihime, have a similar legend.

[5352] beta Lyrae or Sheliak ("harp") is a binary star composed of two B-type stars that are so close together that it is impossible to resolve them with an optical telescope. It is a variable star that serves as the prototype for the Beta Lyrae group of stars.

[5351] gamma Lyrae, also known as Sulafat ("tortoise") and Jugum ("yoke"), is a multiple star system lying approximately 635 light-years from Earth. The main component is a B-type bright giant, with luminosity about 2,100 times that of the Sun.

[5362]-[5364] epsilon Lyrae, also known as The Double Double, is a quadruple star system, with two binary stars orbiting each other. Epsilon Lyrae is about 162 light-years distant from Earth. It can be spotted with the naked eye.

Another star that serves as a prototype for an entire group of stars is RR Lyrae, a variable star that varies in brightness between magnitudes 7 and 8 within a period of about 13 hours.

The constellation is home to several notable deep sky objects. Messier 56 (NGC 6779) is a globular cluster 84 light-years across in size, lying approximately 32,900 light-years from Earth. Messier 57 (NGC 6720) or the Ring Nebula, is a bipolar planetary nebula formed by a shell of gas expelled by a dying star, located between [5352] beta and [5351] gamma Lyrae. Gliese 747AB is a red dwarf lying near [5366] 17 Lyrae. It is also known as Kuiper 90 or 17 Lyrae C. It was previously believed to be a part of the 17 Lyrae system.

Lyra belongs to the Hercules family of constellations, along with Hercules, Sagitta, Aquila, Cygnus, Vulpecula, Hydra, Sextans, Crater, Corvus, Ophiuchus, Serpens, Scutum, Centaurus, Lupus, Corona Australis, Ara, Triangulum Australe and Crux.

Constellations directly bordering Lyra are Draco, Hercules, Vulpecula and Cygnus.



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