Universe Guide

Vega (Alpha Lyrae, 3 Lyrae) Star Facts

Vega Facts

  • Vega is a pulsating main sequence star that can be located in the constellation of Lyra. The description is based on the spectral class.
  • Vega is a main star of the constellation outline.
  • Based on the spectral type (A0Vvar) of the star, the star's colour is blue - white .
  • Vega is the 5th brightest star in the night sky and is the brightest star in Lyra based on the Hipparcos 2007 apparent magnitude. The star can be seen with the naked eye, that is, you don't need a telescope/binoculars to see it.
  • Using the most recent figures given by the 2007 Hipparcos data, the star is 25.05 light years away from us. Distance

Information on Vega

Vega is a little more oval or egg shaped than other stars, caused by the rotation of the star. According to the Hipparcos data file, it has a few stars orbiting it so they are influencing its shape. Its actually hotter at the poles than at the Equator unlike our own the Sun.

Vega, the Pole Star

Whilst Polaris is currently known as the Pole Star, it hasn't always been the case and won't always be the case. Thuban in Draco was the Pole Star in 3,000 B.C., roughly at the time of the building of the Pyramids. In 13,000 years time, Vega will become the Pole Star, the star closest to aligning with the North Pole. Vega won't keep the title and Polaris will regain the title of Pole Star in another 13,000 years after that. Ref: N.A.S.A.

Vega's Alternative Names

Alpha Lyrae (Alf Lyr) is the Bayer Classification for the star. The Bayer Classification was created by Johann Bayer in 1603. The brightest star in the constellation is normally given the Alpha designation, there are exceptions such as Pollux which is Beta Geminorum.

The Id of the star in the Yale Bright Star Catalogue is HR7001. HIP91262 is the reference name for the star in the Hipparcos Star Catalogue. The Id of the star in the Henry Draper catalogue is HD172167. The Gliese ID of the star is GL 721. The star was part of the original catalogue devised by German Astronomer Wilheim Gliese of stars located within 20 parsecs of Earth. Star Names

Vega has alternative name(s) :- , alf Lyr. In Arabic, it is known as Al-Waqi'.

Flamsteed designations are named after the creator, Sir John Flamsteed. Sir John named the stars in the constellation with a number and its latin name, this star's Flamsteed designation is 3 Lyrae. The Flamsteed name can be shortened to 3 Lyr.

BD number is the number that the star was filed under in the Durchmusterung or Bonner Durchmusterung, a star catalogue that was put together by the Bonn Observatory between 1859 to 1903. The star's BD Number is BD+38 3238.

More details on objects' alternative names can be found at Star Names .

Location of Vega

The location of the main sequence star in the night sky is determined by the Right Ascension (R.A.) and Declination (Dec.), these are equivalent to the Longitude and Latitude on the Earth. The Right Ascension is how far expressed in time (hh:mm:ss) the star is along the celestial equator. If the R.A. is positive then its eastwards. The Declination is how far north or south the object is compared to the celestial equator and is expressed in degrees. For Vega, the location is 18h 36m 56.19 and +38° 46` 58.8 .

Radial Velocity and Proper Motion of Vega

Proper Motion

All stars like planets orbit round a central spot, in the case of planets, its the central star such as the Sun. In the case of a star, its the galactic centre. The constellations that we see today will be different than they were 50,000 years ago or 50,000 years from now. Proper Motion details the movements of these stars and are measured in milliarcseconds. The star is moving 286.23 ± 0.28 milliarcseconds/year towards the north and 200.94 ± 0.36 milliarcseconds/year east if we saw them in the horizon.

Radial Velocity

The Radial Velocity, that is the speed at which the star is moving away/towards the Sun is -20.60000 km/s with an error of about 0.20 km/s . When the value is negative then the star and the Sun are getting closer to one another, likewise, a positive number means that two stars are moving away. Its nothing to fear as the stars are so far apart, they won't collide in our life-time, if ever.

Physical Properties of Vega

Vega Colour and Temperature

Based on the star's spectral type of A0Vvar , Vega's colour and type is blue - white main sequence star. The star's effective temperature is 9,519 Kelvin which is hotter than our own Sun's effective Temperature which is 5,777 Kelvin.

Vega Luminosity

Luminosity is the amount of energy that a star pumps out and its relative to the amount that our star, the Sun gives out. The figure of 58.10 that I have given is based on the value in the Simbad Hipparcos Extended Catalogue at the University of Strasbourg from 2012.

Vega Radius

Vega estimated radius has been calculated as being 2.62 times bigger than the Sun. The Sun's radius is 695,800km, therefore the star's radius is an estimated 1,824,337.55.km. If you need the diameter of the star, you just need to multiple the radius by 2. However with the 2007 release of updated Hipparcos files, the radius is now calculated at being round 2.5978889112376907067747543183. The figure is derived at by using the formula from SDSS rather than peer reviewed papers. It has been known to produce widely incorrect figures.

Vega Iron Abundance

Vega Iron Abundance is -0.56 with an error value of 9.99 Fe/H with the Sun has a value of 1 to put it into context. The value comes from the Hipparcos Extended Catalog.

Vega Apparent and Absolute Magnitudes

Vega has an apparent magnitude of 0.03 which is how bright we see the star from Earth. Apparent Magnitude is also known as Visual Magnitude. If you used the 1997 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of 0.58 If you used the 2007 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of 0.60. Magnitude, whether it be apparent/visual or absolute magnitude is measured by a number, the smaller the number, the brighter the Star is. Our own Sun is the brightest star and therefore has the lowest of all magnitudes, -26.74. A faint star will have a high number.

Distance to Vega

Using the original Hipparcos data that was released in 1997, the parallax to the star was given as 128.93000 which gave the calculated distance to Vega as 25.30 light years away from Earth or 7.76 parsecs. If you want that in miles, it is about 148,729,221,941,545.33, based on 1 Ly = 5,878,625,373,183.61 miles.

In 2007, Hipparcos data was revised with a new parallax of 130.23000 which put Vega at a distance of 25.05 light years or 7.68 parsecs. It should not be taken as though the star is moving closer or further away from us. It is purely that the distance was recalculated.

Using the 2007 distance, the star is roughly 1,584,102.67 Astronomical Units from the Earth/Sun give or take a few. An Astronomical Unit is the distance between Earth and the Sun. The number of A.U. is the number of times that the star is from the Earth compared to the Sun. The star's Galacto-Centric Distance is 7,397.00 Parsecs or 24,126.30 Light Years. The Galacto-Centric Distance is the distance from the star to the Centre of the Galaxy which is Sagittarius A*.

Travel Time to Vega

The time it will take to travel to this star is dependent on how fast you are going. U.G. has done some calculations as to how long it will take going at differing speeds. A note about the calculations, when I'm talking about years, I'm talking non-leap years only (365 days).

The New Horizons space probe is the fastest probe that we've sent into space at the time of writing. Its primary mission was to visit Pluto which at the time of launch (2006), Pluto was still a planet.

DescriptionSpeed (m.p.h.)Time (years)
Airbus A38073622,824,655.65
Speed of Sound (Mach 1)767.26921,894,467.99
Concorde (Mach 2)1,534.5410,947,219.72
New Horizons Probe33,000509,058.99
Speed of Light670,616,629.0025.05

Variable Type of Vega

The star is a pulsating Delta Scuti variable type which means that its size changes over time. The Variable Type is usually named after the first star of that type to be spotted. Vega brightness ranges from a magnitude of 0.127 to a magnitude of 0.068 over its variable period. The smaller the magnitude, the brighter the star. Its variable/pulsating period lasts for 0.1 days (variability).

Meteor Showers Radiating from near Vega

The Lyrids Meteor Shower radiants from a point near this star. The meteor shower runs typically between April 16-25 with a peak date of Apr. 22. The speed of a meteor in the shower is 49 Km/s. The amount of meteors predicted to be seen per hour (Zenith Hourly Rate) is 49.

Source of Information

The source of the information if it has a Hip I.D. is from Simbad, the Hipparcos data library based at the University at Strasbourg, France. Hipparcos was a E.S.A. satellite operation launched in 1989 for four years. The items in red are values that I've calculated so they could well be wrong. Information regarding Metallicity and/or Mass is from the E.U. Exoplanets. The information was obtained as of 12th Feb 2017.

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Additional Vega Facts and Figures

Visual Facts

Primary / Proper / Traditional NameVega
Alternative NamesAlpha Lyrae, Alf Lyr, Al-Waqi', HD 172167, HIP 91262, HR 7001, 3 Lyrae, 3 Lyr, BD+38 3238, Gliese 721, alf Lyr
Spectral TypeA0Vvar
Constellation's Main StarYes
Multiple Star SystemYes
Star Type Main Sequence Dwarf Star
GalaxyMilky Way
Absolute Magnitude 0.58 / 0.60
Visual / Apparent Magnitude0.03
Naked Eye VisibleYes - Magnitudes
Right Ascension (R.A.)18h 36m 56.19
Declination (Dec.)+38° 46` 58.8
Galactic Latitude19.23747596 degrees
Galactic Longitude 67.44733438 degrees
1997 Distance from Earth128.93000 Parallax (milliarcseconds)
 25.30 Light Years
 7.76 Parsecs
2007 Distance from Earth130.23000 Parallax (milliarcseconds)
 25.05 Light Years
 7.68 Parsecs
 1,584,102.67 Astronomical Units
Galacto-Centric Distance24,126.30 Light Years / 7,397.00 Parsecs
Proper Motion Dec.286.23000 ± 0.28000 milliarcseconds/year
Proper Motion RA.200.94000 ± 0.36000 milliarcseconds/year
B-V Index0
Radial Velocity-20.60000 ± 0.20 km/s
Iron Abundance-0.5600 ± 9.99 Fe/H
Semi-Major Axis7567.0000000
Stellar Luminosity (Lsun)58.1000000
Brightest in Night Sky5th

Companions (Multi-Star and Exoplanets) Facts

Exoplanet CountNone/Unaware

Variable Star Details

Variable Star ClassPulsating
Variable Star TypeDelta Scuti
Mean Variability Period in Days0.050
Variable Magnitude Range (Brighter - Dimmer)0.068 - 0.127

Estimated Calculated Facts

Radius (x the Sun)2.60
Effective Temperature9,531 Kelvin

Sources and Links

SIMBAD SourceLink

Multi-Star System

The star has been identified as being a multi-star system, one in which there is at least one star in close orbit to another star or two or more stars orbiting a central point. The stars may be of equal mass, unequal mass where one star is stronger than the other or be in groups orbiting a central point which doesn't necessarily have to be a star. More information can be found on my dedicated multiple star systems page. The source of the info is Simbad. The file is dated 2000 so any differences between this and any other source will be down to the actual source from where the information came from.

Proper Motion mas/yr
H.D. IdB.D. IdStar CodeMagnitudeR.A.Dec.SpectrumColourYear
172167+38 3238.0A0.10000200.00000285.00000A0White

Location of Vega in Lyra

Vega Location in Lyra

The map was generated using Night Vision, an awesome free application by Brian Simpson.

Lyra Main Stars

Comments and Questions

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Alex Vincent.Wednesday, 14th June 2017 5:10:15 PM
I have read ages ago that Vega is approaching us and the Sun is approaching Vega. How close will vega ending being to us then? It would be a very bright star if it got within a few lioght years of us. How much is it approaching us? Vega was the North Pole Star in 12,000 BC and will again obtain this position in 14,000 AD. It is the pole star every 26,000 years, but what of its proper motion? For example if its proper motion moves it in the sky by 30 minutes every 1,000 years {full Moon distance) then in say the year 78,000 AD, the star would have moved 39 degrees in the sky making no longer near the pole to be the North Pole Star again. This would apply to any stars, which become pole stars (south or north) in time and that others, which can't be pole stars now or in a few thousand years will be in 50,000 years time. Have you any comments on this please. Yours sincerely. Alex Vincent.
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