Lyrais a prominent constellation of the northern sky which lies between Cygnus and Hercules. It represents the lyre played by Orpheus, the great musician of Greek mythology. Arab astronomers, though, visualized the pattern as a n eagle, and the name of its brightest star, Vega, comes from their term meaning "swooping eagle." Vega forms one corner of a large triangle of stars known to northern observers as the Summer Triangle, completed by Deneb (in Cygnus) and Altair (in Aquila).
Depiction: The Lyre
Highest in the Sky: July to August
Size Ranking: 52nd
Coverage Area: 286 Sq. Degrees
Right Acension: 19 hours
Visibility: 90°N to 45°S
Alpha Lyrae: Star
Delta Lyrae: Double star
Epsilon Lyrae: Double-Double
M57: Ring Nebula
Stephenson 1: Open cluster
Vega, Alpha Lyrae
Sheliak, Beta Lyrae
Sulafat, Gamma Lyrae
Aladfar, Eta Lyrae
Alathfar, Mu Lyrae
Best Viewed Objects/Stars
Alpha Lyrae (Vega)
The fifth brightest star in the sky, at magnitude 0.0. It is a blue-white star, 25 light-years away.
A double star, the brighter component of which is variable. Beta Lyrae itself is an eclipsing binary that varies between magnitudes 3.3 and 4.4 in a cycle that lasts 12 days and 22 hours. A small telescope shows that it has a wide companion of magnitude 7.2.
A wide pair of unrelated stars, divisible with binoculars or the naked eye. One is a red giant that varies slightly between about magnitudes 4.2 and 4.3, and the other is a blue-white star of magnitude 5.6.
Epsilon Lyrae (The Double Double)
A striking quadruple star. When viewed with binoculars, or even sharp eyesight, it appears as a pair of 5th-magnitude stars. A telescope with an aperture of 2.5 to 3 in (60-75 mm), with high magnification, will divide both stars into closer binaries. The slightly wider pair, of magnitudes 5.0 and 6.1, has a calculated orbital peroid of about 1,750 years. The other pair, of magnitudes 5.2 and 5.5, has an orbital period of over 700 years. All four stars lie aboit 160 light-years away.
A double star. The two components, magnitudes 4.3 and 5.7, are easy to divide with binoculars or a small telescope.
M57 (The Ring Nebula)
A planetary nebula, visible through a small telescope as an elliptical disc. Larger apertures show it as a ring, which is how it appears on photographs.