| LYRA Chart | Midnight Culmination | Skylore | Description | Asterisms |
| Special Stars | Nebulae | Star Clusters | Discussed in these Shows |

Constellation Data

  • Name: LYRA
  • Translation: Lyre or Harp
  • Abbreviation: Lyr
  • Genitive: Lyrae
  • Size: 52
  • Located Between: Cygnus, Aquila
  • RA: 19 hours
  • Decl: +35 degrees
  • Season: Summer
  • Midnight Culmination: July 2
  • Pages where LYRA is discussed in Chet Raymo's 365 Starry Nights: 129-134

What is the Genitive form?
What is Right Ascension (RA)?
Is this constellation ever visible from my latitude? What is Declination?

Where should I look for a constellation on a date before or after its midnight culmination? What is Midnight Culmination?


This is the lyre given by Apollo to Orpheus according to the Greeks, or to King Arthur according to English legend. Shakespeare tells us that when Orpheus would play his lyre:
everything that heard him play,
even the billows of the sea,
hung their heads, and then lay by.

Orpheus played the harp so well that he charmed Pluto and the guardians of the underworld. They enjoyed his music so much that they agreed to release his wife Eurydice, who had died of a snake bite. Orpheus was told to trust that Eurydice was behind him, and not to look back and check to see if she was there. He could not obey this comand, however, and he lost his wife forever. Later, Zeus places his harp among the stars.


The summer triangle consists of Deneb... Altair... and bluish Vega. Vega is the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere, closely rivaling Arcturus. Vega means Swooping Eagle in Arabic. It soars almost directly overhead in summer, while the bright stars of winter nights are hidden almost directly beneath our feet. Look for a small parallelogram of stars near Vega which forms the frame of the harp.

A slow wobble in the Earth's daily rotation causes the Earth's north pole to trace a circle among the stars every 26,000 years. Because of this motion, called precession, the star nearest the pole is not always the same. Architects of the great Egyptian pyramid used Thuban (TOO-bahn), a star in the constellation Draco the Dragon, for their north star.

Polaris, the tip of the Little Dipper's handle (see Ursa Minor), currently lies within three-quarters of a degree from the polar point, and will reach its closest proximity--under half a degree--in the year 2102 AD. No matter where you are in the northern hemisphere, when you face Polaris you are facing north. Polaris now points northward more accurately than a magnetic compass.

In 14,000 years Vega will become the pole star. This extremely slow but steady cycle of precession was discovered around 150 B.C by the ancient astronomer Hipparchos. Hipparchos combined the qualitative geometrical systems of the Greeks with the quantitative astronomy of the Babylonians, whose ancient observations were etched on cuneiform tablets. This remarkable fusion of cultures, embodied in the achievements of Hipparchos, greatly benefited Ptolemy 300 years later.

Ptolemy advised his readers that to comprehend the great cycles of the stars provides serenity in the midst of continually changing earthly life: Above all things, astronomy can make men see clearly. From the constancy, order, symmetry and calm which are associated with the divine, astronomy makes its followers lovers of this divine beauty, accustoming them and reforming their natures, as it were, to a similar spiritual state.

[star chart]

Star chart created with Voyager II Software for Macintosh, published by Carina Software. This is just a taste of what Voyager can do! For info on Voyager II software, call Carina Software at (510) 355-1266, write them at 12919 Alcosta Blvd Suite #7, San Ramon, CA 94583, or visit Carina Software's home page and check out Voyager II for yourself.


Summer Triangle

What is an Asterism?

Special Stars

The bright star Vega is a brilliant bluish-white, almost straight overhead on late summer evenings. Vega is 3 times larger than the sun and 27 light years away. Vega is the only single star to have an automobile named after it.

Table of 25 Brightest Stars.
What is apparent stellar magnitude?


M57, Ring Nubula (Planetary nebula), mag. 9.0.

In the late 18th century, Charles Messier (MESS-ee-ay) catalogued all the cloudy patches he could find in the sky so that he would not mistake them for comets. A cloudy patch in Lyra was the 57th nebula listed in his catalog. M57, now known as the Ring Nebula, appears like a little smoke ring peacefully wafting through the starry night. However, this doughnut of glowing hydrogen gas, speaks of the violent explosion of the outer layers of a once massive star. Near the center of the ring, only its hot bluish core remains intact.

What are Nebulae?
Table of Messier Objects.
What is apparent Magnitude?

Star Clusters

M56 (Globular cluster), mag. 8.7.

What are Star Clusters?

Discussed in these Shows

[Small Logo] ©1997 Welcome to the Basic Celestial Phenomena web site. To provide explanations of basic observational astronomy to students, teachers, families, and visitors to planetariums these pages have been written by an ex-OBU Planetarium Director, Kerry Magruder; the OBU Natural Sciences Coordinator, Mike Keas; and some of the students who work in the OBU planetarium.

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