Lyrid of the Lake

Image title: Lyrid of the Lake
Author: Jianfeng Dai
Country: China, Nanjing

Taken in the early hours of 24 April 2022, this image captures the sky of Yunnan Province, China, with a reflection on Lake Nian. The Milky Way is visible on the left side, while whitish Earth clouds are visible on the right. A Lyrid meteor crosses the sky along the Milky Way, its tail pointing back toward the shower's radiant in the constellation Lyra, which lies outside the image above the upper edge. The natural colours of the meteor are impressively clear.

A few constellations are also visible. In the top left corner we can recognise the small constellation of the Dolphin, in which five brightest stars comprise the asterism. This asterism forms the head-part of the larger Greek constellation of the Dolphin and was considered the Dolphin since Roman times, when Ptolemy formed the new constellation of Equuleus in the southern part of the original figure. In mediaeval China, this asterism was considered the Good and the Rotten Gourd, the good one being formed by the brighter rhombus on the top and the rotten one made of faint stars in the tail of the Roman dolphin.

The bright star to the right of the Dolphin and at the top of the image is Altair, the brightest star in the constellation Aquila. In Chinese uranology, Altair, together with some adjacent areas, forms the constellation of the Drum at the River. However, in Chinese folklore, the bright star stands for a boy in love with a girl, who is represented by the bright star Vega (in Lyra) on the other side of a huge celestial stream, the Milky Way. Vega is not visible in this image but the Lyrid meteor is like a teardrop of the unlucky girl who cannot reach her lover.

In the upper right of the image, the constellation Scorpius shines with its bright reddish star Antares. With some of its neighbouring stars, it was regarded in China as the asterism of The Heart, which was also one of the Lunar Mansions. It was considered the heart of the Azure Dragon, the super-constellation of spring, in ancient China.

Scorpius and Sagittarius, in the middle of the image, contain the brightest clouds of the Milky Way, the Galactic Centre, which also has clearly visible dark clouds in front of the bright ones.

There is no classical Greco-Roman constellation between Aquila and Scorpius, but in the 17th century, two Polish astronomers, the couple Jan and Elizabeta Hevelius, named this area of bright clouds in the Milky Way Scutum, the Shield, in memory of a Polish king. In China, however, this area directly outside the super-constellation (or heavenly enclosure) of the Celestial Market Place was seen as depicting Market Officers.

Also see image in Zenodo:


Jianfeng Dai/IAU OAE

About the Image

Release date:
15 December 2022, 12:00
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6240 x 4160 px
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