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The Constellation Lyra, the Harp
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Lyra

Lyra, the Lyre, is a type of small harp held in the player's lap. The brightest star in Lyra, Vega, is placed in the handle of the harp. A small parallelogram of four faint stars just to the southeast of Vega outline the harp itself. Lyra is one of three constellations whose brightest stars form the Summer Triangle.

Vega is a very bright star (the fifth brightest in the whole sky) and is very close. Lyra is also home to one of the brightest, loveliest planetary nebulae, the Ring Nebula. It can be viewed with binoculars, although it's distinctive smoke-ring shape cannot.

According to Greek mythology, the lyre was invented by Hermes as a child when he strung a tortoise shell. He traded the lyre to Apollo, who then gave it to his son, Orpheus, a great poet and musician. Some Asian traditions see the bright star Vega as the Weaving-Princess star who marries a shepherd, the star Altair.

The Lyrid meteor shower happens in April each year. The meteors in the Lyrid meteor shower seem to shoot outward from the constellation Lyra.


Last modified March 29, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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