monthly skyguide, free star charts, constellation star charts, sky guide

Lyra - the Lyre

Mythology - Lyra represents the very first musical instrument fabricated by Apollo from the empty shell of a tortoise and some cow gut. He later gave this to Orpheus who became renowned for his skill as a musician. he had a beautiful wife, Eurydice, who was bitten by a snake while being chased by a rapacious beekeeper. Orpheus went into the underworld to find her and after charming Persephone with his musical talent she agreed to let Eurydice back on the condition that Orpheus never look back at her until the pair had left Hades. Unfortunately he did so, just before leaving and Eurydice was lost forever. The gods raised his lyre into the heavens as a tribute.
Stars - Vega is a brilliant 0.0 magnitude star which has a dust disk around it, now confirmed to have planetary bodies moving within it. Epsilon lyræ is a naked eye double which resolves into two double stars through a telescope at high magnification. This is the famous “double double”. Beta lyræ or Sheliak is a binocular double, the main star of which is an eclipsing binary that changes its brightness by one magnitude every 13 days.
Deepsky - M57 in Lyra is called the Ring Nebula and is a fine example of a planetary nebula. Through a small telescope it resembles a smoke ring. Larger telescopes may show a greenish colour and the tiny central star that has blown off this ring of gas. There is a small, faint globular cluster in Lyra, M56, which is just visible in 10 x 50s, but better seen in a telescope.
Visibility - As part of the "Summer Triangle" Lyra is a signpost for late Summer and early Autumn. Look for it after July