Lyra (ˈlaɪrə; Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 for lyre
The lyre is a stringed musical instrument known for its use in Greek classical antiquity and later. The word comes from the Greek "λύρα" and the earliest reference to the word is the Mycenaean Greek ru-ra-ta-e, meaning "lyrists", written in Linear B syllabic script...

, from Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 λύρα) is a small constellation
In modern astronomy, a constellation is an internationally defined area of the celestial sphere. These areas are grouped around asterisms, patterns formed by prominent stars within apparent proximity to one another on Earth's night sky....

. It is one of the 48 constellation
In modern astronomy, a constellation is an internationally defined area of the celestial sphere. These areas are grouped around asterisms, patterns formed by prominent stars within apparent proximity to one another on Earth's night sky....

s listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

, and remains one of the 88 modern constellations recognized by the International Astronomical Union
International Astronomical Union
The International Astronomical Union IAU is a collection of professional astronomers, at the Ph.D. level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy...

. Its principal star, Vega
Vega is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, the fifth brightest star in the night sky and the second brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, after Arcturus...

 — a corner of the Summer Triangle
Summer Triangle
The Summer Triangle is an astronomical asterism involving an imaginary triangle drawn on the northern hemisphere's celestial sphere, with its defining vertices at Altair, Deneb, and Vega, being the brightest stars in the three constellations of Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra.The English term was...

 — is one of the brightest stars in the sky. Beginning at the north, Lyra is bordered by Draco
Draco (constellation)
Draco is a constellation in the far northern sky. Its name is Latin for dragon. Draco is circumpolar for many observers in the northern hemisphere...

, Hercules
Hercules (constellation)
Hercules is a constellation named after Hercules, the Roman mythological hero adapted from the Greek hero Heracles. Hercules was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations today...

, Vulpecula
Vulpecula is a faint constellation in the northern sky. Its name is Latin for "little fox", although it is commonly known simply as the fox. It was identified in the seventeenth century, and is located in the middle of the Summer Triangle .-Stars:There are no stars brighter than 4th magnitude in...

, and Cygnus
Cygnus (constellation)
Cygnus is a northern constellation lying on the plane of the Milky Way. Its name is the Latinized Hellenic word for swan. One of the most recognizable constellations of the northern summer and autumn, it features a prominent asterism known as the Northern Cross...


Lyra is visible from the northern hemisphere from spring through autumn, and nearly overhead, in temperate latitudes, during the summer months. From the southern hemisphere, it is visible low in the northern sky during the winter months.

Notable features


Lyra's brightest stars include the following:
  • α Lyr (Vega
    Vega is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, the fifth brightest star in the night sky and the second brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, after Arcturus...

    ). With an apparent brightness of 0.03m, this is the second brightest star of the northern hemisphere (after Arcturus) and the fifth brightest star in all; its spectral class is A0 V and it lies at a distance of only 25.3 ly.
  • β Lyr
    Beta Lyrae
    Beta Lyrae is a binary star system approximately 882 light-years away in the constellation Lyra. Beta Lyrae has the traditional name Sheliak , from الشلياق šiliyāq, the Arabic name of the constellation Lyra.Beta Lyrae is an eclipsing semi-detached binary system made up of a B7II primary star and...

     (Sheliak). A group of eclipsing binaries is named after this variable star
    Variable star
    A star is classified as variable if its apparent magnitude as seen from Earth changes over time, whether the changes are due to variations in the star's actual luminosity, or to variations in the amount of the star's light that is blocked from reaching Earth...

     (3.45m, spectral class B8 II), the Beta-Lyrae-stars.
  • γ Lyr
    Gamma Lyrae
    Gamma Lyrae is a star in the constellation Lyra. It has the traditional names Sulafat , from the Arabic al-sulḥafāt "turtle", and Jugum, from the Latin "yoke"...

     (Sulafat). The main star of this multiple star system is of magnitude 3.24m and spectral class B9 III.
  • δ1 Lyr. A double star consisting of a blue-white star of mag. 6m and a semi-regular red giant
    Red giant
    A red giant is a luminous giant star of low or intermediate mass in a late phase of stellar evolution. The outer atmosphere is inflated and tenuous, making the radius immense and the surface temperature low, somewhere from 5,000 K and lower...

  • ε Lyr
    Epsilon Lyrae
    Epsilon Lyrae , also known as the Double Double, is a multiple star system approximately 162 light-years away in the constellation of Lyra.-Star System:...

    . A well-known quadruple star, also called "the Double Double" because each of the two brighter components is a double star.
  • ζ Lyr. Another double star which can be split using binoculars.
  • RR Lyr
    RR Lyrae
    RR Lyrae is a variable star in the Lyra constellation. It is the prototype of the RR Lyrae variable class of stars. It has a period of about 13 hours, and oscillates between apparent magnitudes 7 and 8. Its variable nature was discovered by the Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming at Harvard...

     lends its name to a class of pulsating variable RR Lyrae-stars
    RR Lyrae variable
    RR Lyrae variables are periodic variable stars, commonly found in globular clusters, and often used as standard candles to measure galactic distances.This type of variable is named after the prototype, the variable star RR Lyrae in the constellation Lyra....


Deep sky objects

In Lyra can be found the objects M56, M57, and Kuiper 90. M56
Messier 56
Messier 56 is a globular cluster in the constellation Lyra. It was discovered by Charles Messier in 1779...

 is a rather loose globular cluster
Globular cluster
A globular cluster is a spherical collection of stars that orbits a galactic core as a satellite. Globular clusters are very tightly bound by gravity, which gives them their spherical shapes and relatively high stellar densities toward their centers. The name of this category of star cluster is...

 at a distance of approximately 32,900 light-year
A light-year, also light year or lightyear is a unit of length, equal to just under 10 trillion kilometres...

s, with a diameter of about 85 light years. Its apparent brightness is 8.3m. M57
Ring Nebula
The famously named "Ring Nebula" appears in the northern constellation of Lyra and is located in the Carina–Sagittarius Arm...

 is also known as the "Ring Nebula
Ring Nebula
The famously named "Ring Nebula" appears in the northern constellation of Lyra and is located in the Carina–Sagittarius Arm...

". It is one of the best known of all planetary nebula
Planetary nebula
A planetary nebula is an emission nebula consisting of an expanding glowing shell of ionized gas ejected during the asymptotic giant branch phase of certain types of stars late in their life...

e; its integrated magnitude is 8.8m. It is thought to be between 6,000 and 8,000 years old as we see it today. Kuiper 90
Gliese 747AB
Gliese 747AB is a red dwarf star located in Lyra near 17 Lyrae . Also named 17 Lyrae C or Kuiper 90, it is a binary system with a period of 5 years, and a small angular separation .-Components:...

 is also known as 17 Lyrae C (Gliese 747AB
Gliese 747AB
Gliese 747AB is a red dwarf star located in Lyra near 17 Lyrae . Also named 17 Lyrae C or Kuiper 90, it is a binary system with a period of 5 years, and a small angular separation .-Components:...

), a red dwarf
Red dwarf
According to the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, a red dwarf star is a small and relatively cool star, of the main sequence, either late K or M spectral type....

 system near 17 Lyrae, but really at 26 light years from the Sun. Its period is 5 years, and its magnitude is 11.26 in the V band. BD +36 3317, a white star in the young open cluster Stephenson 1, was discovered as a binary eclipsing system by Violat-Bordonau in 2008; its period is 4.30216 days; its other name is VSX J185422.2+365107


Several exoplanets including WASP-3b
WASP-3b is an extrasolar planet orbiting the star WASP-3 located over 727 light-years away in the constellation Lyra. It was discovered via the transit method by SuperWASP, and follow up radial velocity observations confirmed that WASP-3b is a planet. The planet's mass and radius indicate that it...

, HAT-P-5b
HAT-P-5b is a transiting extrasolar planet located approximately 1100 light-years away in the constellation of Lyra, orbiting the star HAT-P-5. It is a hot Jupiter with a mass 6% greater than Jupiter and a radius 26% greater than Jupiter, corresponding to a density of 0.66 g/cm3, which is less than...

, GJ 758 b
GJ 758 B
GJ 758 B is a brown dwarf orbiting the G-type main sequence star GJ 758, located approximately 50 light years away, in the constellation Lyra.GJ 758 B was detected by direct imaging using the HiCIAO instrument of the Subaru Telescope...

 and c, HD 178911 Bb
HD 178911 Bb
HD 178911 Bb is a planet discovered in 2001 by Zucker who used the radial velocity method. The minimum mass of this giant planet is 7.35 times that of Jupiter that orbits close to the star. The period of the planet is 71.5 days and the semi-amplitude is 346.9 m/s....

, HD 177830 b, TrES-1
TrES-1b is an extrasolar planet approximately 512 light-years away in the constellation of Lyra . The planet's mass and radius indicate that it is a Jovian planet with a similar bulk composition to Jupiter...

, and HD 173416 b
HD 173416 b
HD 173416 b is an extrasolar planet located approximately 440 light years away in the constellation of Lyra, orbiting the 6th magnitude G-type giant star HD 173416. This is planet has at least 2.7 times the mass of Jupiter and was discovered on January 10, 2009 by Liu et al. HD 173416 b orbits at...

 have been discovered in Lyra. In January 2010 the Kepler Mission
Kepler Mission
The Kepler spacecraft is an American space observatory, the space-based portion of NASA's Kepler Mission to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. The spacecraft is named in honor of the 17th-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler...

 announced the discovery of the additional planets Kepler-7b
Kepler-7b is one of the first five planets to be confirmed by NASA's Kepler spacecraft, and was confirmed in the first 33.5 days of Kepler's science operations. It is in the orbit of a star that is not as hot as the Sun, but is significantly larger and is expected to soon reach the end of the main...

, Kepler-8b
Kepler-8b is the fifth of the first five exoplanets discovered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft, which aims to discover planets in a region of the sky between the constellations Lyra and Cygnus that transit their host stars. The planet is the hottest of the five...

, and at least two more planets in Kepler-9
Kepler-9 is a sunlike star in the constellation Lyra. It is situated in the Kepler Mission's field of view. Kepler-9 has three confirmed extrasolar planets, all discovered by Kepler using the transit method. The discovery of the first two planets was announced on August 26, 2010, and of the third...

, which are expected to be the first of many discovered by the mission, which has a significant part of its field of view in Lyra.


In the past, Lyra was often represented on star maps as a vulture
Vulture is the name given to two groups of convergently evolved scavenging birds, the New World Vultures including the well-known Californian and Andean Condors, and the Old World Vultures including the birds which are seen scavenging on carcasses of dead animals on African plains...

 or an eagle
Eagles are members of the bird family Accipitridae, and belong to several genera which are not necessarily closely related to each other. Most of the more than 60 species occur in Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just two species can be found in the United States and Canada, nine more in...

 carrying a lyre, either enclosed in its wings, or in its beak. It was sometimes referred to as Aquila Cadens or Vultur Cadens (falling eagle or falling vulture).


In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, Lyra was associated with the myth of Orpheus
Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music; his attempt to retrieve his wife from the underworld; and his death at the hands of those who...

, the musician who was killed by the Bacchantes. After his death, his lyre was thrown into the river; Zeus sent an eagle to retrieve the lyre, and ordered both of them to be placed in the sky. In Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, Lyra is known as King Arthur's Harp (Talyn Arthur), and King David's harp*.html. The Persian Hafiz
Hafidh |f.]] ḥāfiẓa), literally meaning 'guardian', is a term used by Muslims in modern days for someone who has completely memorized the Qur'an.-Overview:...

 called it the Lyre of Zurah.*.html
It has been called the Manger of the Infant Saviour, Praesepe Salvatoris*.html.

Equivalents in other astronomical systems

Vega and its surrounding stars are also treated as a constellation in other cultures.

In Australian Aboriginal astronomy, Lyra is known by the Boorong people in Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

 as the Malleefowl
The Malleefowl is a stocky ground-dwelling Australian bird about the size of a domestic chicken...


Lyra was known as Urcuchillay
Urcuchillay was the name given to Lyra by the Incas. Urcuchillay was worshipped by herders and believed to be a multicolored llama who watched over animals....

 by the Incas and was worshipped as an animal deity.

Fictional references

In the poem Aniara by the nobel laureate Harry Martinson
Harry Martinson
Harry Martinson was a Swedish sailor, author and poet. In 1949 he was elected into the Swedish Academy. He was awarded a joint Nobel Prize in Literature in 1974 together with fellow Swede Eyvind Johnson. The choice for Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson was very controversial as both were on the...

, the space ship Aniara was travelling at high speed towards the stars of Lyra after having been shipwrecked by collisions by asteroids.

In the film K-PAX
K-PAX (film)
K-PAX is a 2001 American science fiction and mystery film directed by Iain Softley and starring Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Mary McCormack and Alfre Woodard. The screenplay, written by Gene Brewer and Charles Leavitt, is based on a novel of the same name by Brewer about a psychiatric patient who...

, the constellation of Lyra is the location of the planet K-PAX, which is an inhabited world that orbits twin stars and has seven moons.

In the film Contact
Contact (film)
Contact is a 1997 American science fiction drama film adapted from the Carl Sagan novel of the same name and directed by Robert Zemeckis. Both Sagan and wife Ann Druyan wrote the story outline for the film adaptation of Contact....

, the message intercepted by Jodi Foster's character is coming from Vega, the brightest star in the Lyra constellation.

In the TV/Videogame series MegaMan Star Force, Lyra is the alien that accompanies Sonia Sky, who is otherwise known as Sonia Strumm in the game series, but Lyra is sometimes known as Harp, most commonly found in the original Japanese version, Ryuusei no Rockman.


USS Lyra (AK-101)
USS Lyra (AK-101)
The USS Lyra was a Crater-class cargo ship in the service of the United States Navy in World War II. It was the only ship of the Navy to have borne this name...

 was a United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 Crater class cargo ship
Crater class cargo ship
Crater-class cargo ship is a category of freighter that was constructed for use by the United States Navy during World War II under Maritime Commission EC2-S-C1 type....

named after the constellation.


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