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Lyra (The Harp): Constellation of the month for July

Very High in the sky to the South-South East in summer evenings, the constellation Lyra is seen as a prominent parallelogram below a very bright star (Vega).

Vega is the 2nd Brightest star visible in the Northern Sky largely because it is only 25 light years away. Some 14,000 years ago it was the closest bright star to true North (i.e. the pole star) and in another 14,000 years it will be again.



Lyra contains two very notable objects. The first is Messier Catalogue number 57 (M57) which is the famous “Ring Nebula” – the remains of an exploding star which looks like a celestial smoke ring.  Binoculars and small telescopes will reveal its presence, but medium telescopes (150mm aperture and up) are needed to show it as a ring.  The second is the star Epsilon Lyrae (ε), which is a  double-double star where two pairs of stars orbit each other. Binoculars show two stars, small telescopes can see all four.  In fact modern research suggests that this amazing solar system could have up to 10 stars. A fifth star is definitely known to be orbiting one of the four visible stars, though so close in that it can never be seen separately. But in addition astronomers think that up to another five stars could also be slowly orbiting the central four much further out.