Constellation - Lyra

Constellation - Lyra


Lyra, the Harp is visible in the northern hemisphere from Spring to Autumn. It was one of the 48 constellations originally described by Ptolemy. Lyra is a small constellation but is easy to find as it contains the fifth brightest star in the sky, Vega. Home to the ring nebula, M57 and the quadruple star system known as the 'double double' (star 4.6 on the chart) makes Lyra a nice place to visit and spend some time admiring.


The Lyre or harp was fetched from the stream by an eagle sent by Zeus and both were placed in the night sky when it's owner died. The Lyre belonged to Orpheus, the musician. When his wife died he went to the underworld to retrieve her. Hades found the music by Orpheus to be so splendid that he granted Orpheus his wish to have his wife back in the overworld. However, Orpheus was told he must not look back whilst leading his wife to the overworld. Unfortunately, Orpheus doubted that it was his wife that was following him and he turned back only to see her being taken back to the underworld. He later died at the hands of the Bacchantes.

Take the Tour:

Number Object Description Magnitude Surface Brightness
1 M57 Planetary Nebula 9.0 9.5
2 M56 Globular Cluster 8.3 12

Each image is the size of a full moon for size comparison.

M57, the Ring Nebula:


M57, the ring nebula is located 2,300 light years away. It was first discovered by  Darquier in January 1779. This easily seen and easily located planetary nebula takes the appearance of a smoke ring in the night sky. It is thought to be about 20,000 years old and was orginally a sun-like star. Now its a white dwarf burning at 100,000 degrees Kelvin.



M56 is a globular cluster located 32,900 light years away. It was discoverd by Messier in January 1779. This is a challenging object to find but is found roughly half way between Alberio and the star labelled 3.3 on the chart. It is interesting as it has a retograde orbit through our galaxy and so, was probably part of a dwarf galaxy that became integrated into the Milky Way.

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