Vega is a brilliant magnitude +0.03 blue-tinged white main sequence star located in the constellation Lyra. Its marginally brighter than Capella (α Aur - mag. +0.08) and slightly fainter than Arcturus (α Boo - mag. -0.04) making it the second brightest star in the northern section of the sky. With a declination of 38 degrees north, Vega appears high in the sky and even overhead from northern temperate latitudes. The star is visible at sometime or another from anywhere north of 51 degrees south and therefore can been from the majority of Southern Hemisphere including all of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and most of Argentina and Chile.
Vega is a dazzling beacon of light amongst the relatively faint but prominent constellation of Lyra. It was originally named Wega from a derivative of the Arabic phrase "Al Nasr al Waqi" or Swooping Eagle. Around 12,000 BC, Vega was the North Pole star and will return there again around 13,700 AD. It's probably unsurprising given its brilliance and prominent northern position that Vega is one of the most investigated of all stars. It was one of the first stars to have its distance determined by parallax and was the first star other than the Sun to be photographed and have its spectrum determined. Vega also makes up the brightest corner of the well-known Summer Triangle, along with Altair (α Aqr - mag. +0.77) and Deneb (α Cyg - mag +1.25). This bright asterism was popularised by American author H.A. Rey and British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore in the 1950s.
Vega is a spectral class A0Va star that's positioned within the main sequence of the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram. It's a nearby star that's only 25 light-years distant and relatively young at 455 million years, equal to about 1/10 the age of the Sun. However, Vega is burning through its hydrogen fuel at a much faster rate than our star and is expected to start becoming an M class red giant in another 500 million years. For comparison, the same scenario will not happen to the Sun for over 5 billion years! Even though it's more than twice as massive as the Sun and over 40 times more luminous, Vega is not massive enough to explode as a supernova and will end its life, just like the Sun, as a white dwarf. Visible in amateur scopes are two faint companions at magnitude +9.5 and +11.0, although both are unrelated and much further away than Vega.
Recent observations suggest that the star is slightly variable and of the Delta Scuti type and if confirmed it would be the brightest example of this type. Surrounding Vega are disks of dust and debris extending for hundreds of astronomical units (AU).
The charts below show the position of Vega. It's best seen during the months of June, July and August.
Vega Data Table
|Bayer||alpha (α) Lyr|
|RA (J2000)||18h 36m 56s|
|DEC (J2000)||+38d 47m 01s|
|Apparent Mag. Range||-0.02 -> 0.07|
|Surface Temp. (K)||9,600|
|Age (million years)||455|
|Other designations||HR 7001, HD 172167, HIP 91262|