The Chameleon Constellation

Chameleon is a small constellation in the southern sky. It was first defined in the 16th century as one of twelve constellations created by Petrus Plancius from the observations of Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman. Johann Bayer was the first uranographer to put Chamaeleon in a celestial atlas. The best viewing months is in April, at right ascension 12h 0min and declination -81degrees 1′.

There are four bright stars in Chamaeleon that form a compact diamond-shape approximately 10 degrees from the South Celestial Pole and about 15 degrees south of Acrux, along with the axis formed by Acrux and Gamma Crucis. Alpha Chamaeleontis is a white-hued star of magnitude 4.1, 63 light-years from Earth. Beta Chamaeleontis is a blue-white hued star of magnitude 4.2, 27 light-years from Earth. Gamma Chamaeleontis is a red-hued giant star of magnitude 4.1, 413 light-years from Earth. The other bright star in Chamaeleon is Delta Chamaeleontis, a wide double star. The brighter star is Delta2 Chamaeleontis, a blue-hued star of magnitude 4.4. Delta1 Chamaeleontis, the dimmer component, is an orange-hued giant star of magnitude 5.5. They both lie about 350 light years away.

Chamaeleon is also the location of Cha 110913, a unique dwarf star or proto solar system. In 1999, a nearby open cluster was discovered centred on the star η Chamaeleontis. The cluster, known as either the Eta Chamaeleontis cluster or Mamajek 1, is 8 million years old and lies 316 light years from Earth. The constellation contains a number of molecular clouds (the Chamaeleon dark clouds) that are forming low-mass T Tauri stars. The cloud complex lies some 400 to 600 light years from Earth and contains tens of thousands of solar masses of gas and dust. The most prominent cluster of T Tauri stars and young B-type stars are in the Chamaeleon I cloud, and are associated with the reflection nebula IC 2631. Chamaeleon contains one planetary nebula, NGC 3195, which is fairly faint. It appears in a telescope at about the same apparent size as Jupiter. Credit: Wikipedia.