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21 Interesting Lyra Constellation Facts, Myths, and FAQs

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Lyra Constellation

Are you the type of person who loves spending time outdoors looking up at the stars? If you are, then you have probably seen the constellation Lyra at some point.

Even if you’re not an astronomy enthusiast, you may have heard of it before, as it is part of the 88 constellations that were identified by the International Astronomical Union. It is also among the 48 listed constellations by Ptolemy in his work from the 2nd century, Almagest.

In this guide, I’m going to share with you some interesting facts about the Lyra constellation, as well as some myths and FAQs.

telescope divider 2The 6 Stars That Make Up Lyra

1. Vega

Vega Constellation

Image Credit: alionaprof, Shutterstock

Light Years from Earth 25.04 
Spectral Class  A0V
Discovered 1850

What is the brightest star in the Lyra constellation? The answer is Vega, which is also the fifth brightest star in the entire night sky.

It has a visual magnitude of 0.03, making it easily visible to the naked eye. As such, it has been used as a navigational star by sailors for centuries.

Vega has long been associated with the legend of Hercules, as it is located in the hero’s chest area. In Greek mythology, Lyra represents the stringed instrument that Hercules used to slay the nine-headed hydra.

Discovered in 1850, Vega is actually a fairly young star at only about 455 million years old. It is about two times the mass of our Sun and about 25 times more luminous. This means that it is burning through its fuel much faster than our Sun and will only have a lifespan of about 1 billion years.


2. Sheliak

Sheliak constellation

Image Credit: M Andy, Shutterstock

Light Years from Earth 960
Spectral Class  B7II
Discovered 1784

Also known as Beta Lyrae, Sheliak is one of the brighter stars in the constellation Lyra. It is a binary star system consisting of a blue giant star and a white dwarf star.

First discovered in 1784 by John Goodricke, Sheliak is one of the closer binary star systems to Earth, located about 430 light-years away.

The name Sheliak comes from the Arabic word for “the harp”, which is what Lyra represents. Watchers can see Sheliak as the brightest star in the “neck” of the harp.


3. Sulafat

Sulafat Constellation

Image Credit: M Andy, Shutterstock

Light Years from Earth 620
Spectral Class  B9III
Discovered 1857

Next up on our list of interesting Lyra constellation facts is the star Sulafat. It’s one of the brighter stars in the constellation, and it’s also one of the stars with the highest proper motion. This means that it appears to move across the sky more rapidly than other stars. Sulafat is a yellow giant star that is about 620 light years from Earth.

Sulafat was first discovered in 1857 by Charles Messier. He observed it while searching for comets, and he included it in his catalog of comet-like objects (which is now known as the Messier Catalogue).


4. R Lyrae

R Lyrae

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Light Years from Earth 620
Spectral Class  B9III
Discovered 1857

R Lyrae is the prototype of a class of stars known as RR Lyrae variables. These are old, low-mass stars that pulsate in brightness over time. The name “RR Lyrae” comes from the fact that these types of stars were first identified in the constellation Lyra.

It’s about 350 light-years away from Earth and is one of the brightest stars in its class. What’s more, it’s believed to be part of a much larger stellar grouping called the Cygnus OB2 association. This star is also particularly interesting because it’s thought to have a companion star that can’t be seen with the naked eye.


5. The Double Double – ε Lyrae

galaxy - double clusters

Light Years from Earth 740
Spectral Class  K2III
Discovered 1985

Officially known as Epsilon Lyrae, the Double Double is one of the most interesting and easily recognizable constellations in the night sky. As its name suggests, it is actually two binary stars that appear to be double stars.

. All four stars are similar in size and temperature, which is why they appear to be the same color to us.


6. Messier 56

Leo Constellation

Image Credit: Genevieve de Messieres, Shutterstock

Light Years from Earth 32,900
Spectral Class  F5
Discovered 1779

Also known as NGC 6779, Messier 56 is a cluster in Lyra. It was first discovered in 1779 by French astronomer Charles Messier.

This cluster is about 33,000 light-years from Earth and has a diameter of about 95 light-years. It is one of the brighter globular clusters in the sky, with an apparent magnitude of 9.4.

The name “Lyra” is derived from the Greek word for lyre, a stringed musical instrument that was associated with the god Apollo.

The constellation contains some of the brightest stars in the sky, including Vega, which is the fifth brightest star in the night sky. Vega is also part of a group of stars known as the Summer Triangle asterism. It also belongs to two other bright stars, Altair and Deneb.

telescope divider 1The 15 Interesting Lyra Facts

  1. The constellation of Lyra is located in the Northern Hemisphere.
  2. It is one of the 88 constellations recognized by the International Astronomical Union.
  3. Its name is Latin for “lyre”.
  4. Lyra was one of the 48 listed constellations by Ptolemy, the astronomer from the 2nd century.
  5. The brightest star in Lyra is Vega, which is also the fifth brightest star in the night sky.
  6. Vega has been used as a reference point for measuring stellar distances, and it is only 25 light years away from Earth!
  7. Another notable star in Lyra is Epsilon Lyrae, also known as “The Double Double” because it is actually two stars that orbit each other, and each of those stars is itself a binary star system.
  8. The constellation also contains the Ring Nebula, which is the remains of a star that died in a supernova explosion.
  9. The constellation Lyra is associated with several myths and stories.
  10. One Greek myth tells the story of Orpheus, who was a musician and poet. After his wife Eurydice died, he went to the underworld to try and get her back. He played such beautiful music that Hades agreed to let Eurydice return to the land of the living, but only if Orpheus didn’t look back at her until they had both left the underworld. Unfortunately, Orpheus didn’t trust Hades and looked back, causing Eurydice to disappear forever. In another version of the story, it is said that after Orpheus failed to retrieve Eurydice, he became so despondent that he wandered into the wilderness and was torn apart by wild animals. His head and lyre were said to have been placed in the stars as the constellation Lyra.
  11. Another myth associated with Lyra is that of Hercules, who is also known as Heracles in Greek mythology. In one story, Hercules was tasked with stealing the cattle of the three-headed monster Geryon. To get to Geryon’s island, Hercules had to cross the Strait of Gibraltar, which is now known as the Hercules Constellation. While on the island, he killed Geryon and his cattle. As he was returning home, Hera, who was Zeus’s wife and Hercules’ stepmother, sent a gadfly to bite the cattle, causing them to stampede. Hercules lost control of the cattle and they ended up in the stars as the constellation Lyra.
  12. In Chinese mythology, Lyra is known as Tian He or “The Heavenly River”. It is said to be the river that separates the Earth from Heaven.
  13. The Aboriginal Australians also have a legend about Lyra. They say that two brothers were fighting over a woman they both loved. One of the brothers killed the other and was then banished from the tribe. He wandered into the wilderness and died. His spirit rose up into the sky and became the constellation Lyra.
  14. Lyra is also sometimes associated with the myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece. In this story, Jason sets out to find the Golden Fleece to save his kingdom. He assembles a group of heroes known as the Argonauts and together they set sail on a ship called The Argo. They journey to Colchis, where they find the Golden Fleece. Along the way, they encounter various challenges, including having to pass through the Symplegades, or Clashing Rocks. These rocks were said to crash together and destroy any ship that tried to pass through them. However, the Argo was blessed by Zeus and was able to pass through the rocks unscathed. The Argonauts went on to complete their quest and returned home with the Golden Fleece.
  15. Lyra is also sometimes associated with the myth of Icarus. In this story, Icarus attempts to fly too close to the sun with wings made of feathers and wax. The heat from the sun melts the wax and Icarus falls into the sea and drowns. His body was said to have been placed in the stars as the constellation Lyra.

telescope divider 1FAQs

What is the Lyra constellation?

Lyra is among a group of stars that form an imaginary shape in the night sky. The constellation is named after the Greek instrument, the lyre.

Lyra Constellation

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How many stars are in the Lyra constellation?

There are about 100 stars in the constellation Lyra.

What is the brightest star in the Lyra constellation?

The brightest star in Lyra is Vega, which is also one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

What is the myth associated with the Lyra constellation?

There are several myths associated with the Lyra constellation, including the story of Orpheus and Hercules.

Lyra Constellation

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What are some interesting facts about the Lyra constellation?

Some interesting facts about the Lyra constellation include that it contains the star Vega, which is one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

Additionally, the constellation Lyra is home to one of the most famous double stars, called HD 98618. Finally, the constellation also contains a variable star, R Lyrae, which is used to measure distance.

telescope divider 2

Summing Up

Lyra is one of the most interesting and storied constellations in the night sky. Though it may not be as large or bright as some of its neighbors, it has a long history and contains some of the most famous stars and objects in the sky.


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About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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