Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lyra - characteristics and cultural Astronomy

"LyraCC" by Till Credner - Own work: AlltheSky.com. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
Lyra is a small constellation but remarkable because of Vega, the second brightest star on Northern hemisphere and fifth brightest among all the stars visible from Earth. It is preceded only by Sirius, Canopus, Alpha Centauri and Arcturus.

Characteristics of the constellation
Lyra is bordered by Vulpecula to the south, Hercules to the east, Draco to the north, and Cygnus to the west.

Covering 286.5 square degrees, it ranks 52nd of the 88 modern constellations in size.

It appears prominently in the northern sky during the Northern Hemisphere's summer, and the whole constellation is visible for at least part of the year to observers north of latitude 42° S.

Its main asterism consists of six stars, and 73 stars in total are brighter than magnitude 6.5.

The constellation's boundaries, as set by Eugène Delporte in 1930, are defined by a 17-sided polygon. In the equatorial coordinate system, the right ascension coordinates of these borders lie between 08h 14m and 19h 28m, while the declination coordinates are between +25.66° and +47.71°.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) adopted the three-letter abbreviation "Lyr" for the constellation in 1922.
Wikipedia

Cultural Astronomy


Constellations are products of human mental processes combining stars into each other by lines and thus seeing in them familiar objects, animals or mythological figures. As Lyra is not in the zodiac it had no astrological significance. It was simply part of ancient mental mapping of the night sky.

Ptolemy of Alexandria (c. AD 100 – c. 170) includes Lyra in his list of 48 constellations. He uses the name familiar to us (Greek λύρα). The constellation is visible during great part of the year on Greek night sky. It is  marked by the remarkable star we call Vega. Ancient Greeks associated the shape of the constellation with an instrument well before Ptolemy's times and told that the muses had set Orpheus' lyre up on the sky after the death of the tragic musician.

Arab astronomers made a kind of cocktail of themes seeing in the constellation a vulture or an eagle carrying a lyre. What was the symbolism in this?

Persian poet Hafez (حافظ Hāfiz; 1325/26–1389/90) called the constellation The Lyre of Zurah translated as kithara. (see Constellation of Words).

"Leipoa ocellata -Ongerup, Western Australia, Australia-8" by butupa - via Commons
Boorong people in Victoria, Australia, see in the shape of Lyra the Malleefowl bird.

Inca herders worshiped the constellation as Urcuchillay considered a sacred multicolored lama.



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