Vega (α Lyrae) Worksheet

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Key Facts & Information

  • Vega is one of the stars in the Lyra Constellation. It is the brightest star in this constellation. It is also  the fifth-brightest star in the night sky and also considered as the second-brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere after  Arcturus.
  • Vega was once considered as our North Star when all the stars appeared to move towards it. This was around 12,000 BC.
  • The Earth was pointing towards Vega around 14,000 years ago, but due to its wobbling as it spins on its axis daily, it is now pointing towards Polaris. It takes the Earth 25,770 years to complete one wobble.
  • Vega was once called Wega (in Arabic wāqi), which is translated as “falling” or “swooping”.
  • In 1850, the second star to be photographed by William Bond and James Adams was Vega.
  • In 1872, Henry Draper’s first photograph of a star spectrum was his photograph of Vega.
  • Vega’s spectrum served as one of the stable anchor points to classify a star, since 1943.
  • It is known to be an X-ray emitter in 1979, and in 1983, the first star found to have a dust disk.

Distance, Size & Mass

  • Vega lies in a vertex called the Summer Triangle. Together with Vega are two first-magnitude stars, namely, Altair, from Aquila, and Deneb in Cygnus. The formation of these three stars resembles a triangle.
  • This star is 25 light-years away from the Sun.
  • The radius of this star is around 1.1 million mi / 1.8 million km, making it about 2.5 times bigger than the Sun, while its mass is estimated to be at around 2.1 of the Sun.
  • Because of its mass, its fusion fuel will decrease faster than smaller stars.

Formation

  • Vega’s chemical peculiarity shows that it may have been formed 500–800 billion years ago, from an interstellar medium of gas and dust that is uncommonly metal-poor.
  • It has a photosphere metallicity of 32% that can be found in the Sun’s atmosphere, and almost 0.52% of this star is heavier than helium.

Rotation

  • Vega rotates very rapidly. Every 12.5 hours, it rotates once in the equator with a speed of 236 km/146.6 mi per second.
  • This rotation caused a noticeable bulge in the equator, which is why the equatorial radius is larger by 19% than the polar radius.
  • This is the reason why the temperature of the polar regions is at 10,000K, while it is about 8,152K in the equator.

Characteristics

  • Vega is a white main-sequence star (Class A).
  • It is twice as hot as the Sun, and also 40 times brighter.
  • Because of the dust disk, it shows that a planet-forming activity may have taken place.
  • In around half a billion years, when Vega can no longer combine hydrogen in its core, it will become a red giant.
  • Vega is related to Delta Scuti variable which emits low-amplitude pulsations occasionally. This category of star radiates more ultraviolet rays compared to the Sun.

Star System

  • Hypothesis says that two planets, the same as Pluto’s size, may have collided and left the debris that caused the dust disk of Vega, while others believe that is a planetary system that is still undergoing formation.

The Future

  • After it has turned into a red giant, it will eventually turn again, this time into a white dwarf. After 10,000 years, it will once again be the Northern Pole star replacing the Polaris.

Did You Know?

  • Vega-like stars are stars the show infrared excess due to dust emission.
  • The entire universe moves towards Vega with a speed of 15 mi/24.1 km per second. Due to this, this star will become the brightest star in the night sky in 210,000 years. Vega will also reach its peak of -0.81 in 290,000 years. Even if this happens, Vega will still remain as the brightest star for another 270,000 years.
  • The Lyrid meteor shower, which peaks every every year at the end of April, is said to originate from the direction of Vega. However, it is not associated with the star of this constellation.
  • Lyra Constellation is represented as a vulture in Egypt and India.
  • For the Romans, when Vega set below the horizon this signaled the start of Autumn.
  • Vega is the first to have a car named after it. In 1954, Facel Vega was launched, while in 1971, Chevrolet launched Vega.
  • Vega is associated in Zoroastrianism as a minor divinity called Vanant whose name means ”conqueror”.