The constellation Lacerta
- Other names / Symbolism
- Northern hemisphere
- September - November
- 201 deg²
- Brightest star
- α Lacertae (HIP number 111169)
- Open star clusters
The Lacerta, Latin for Lizard, is a small and inconspicuous constellation in the northern sky. It was introduced by the astronomer Johannes Hevelius at the end of the 17th century. There are some interesting deep-sky objects located in the sky area of this constellation that can be observed with professional equipment.
Hemisphere, visibility, and area
The Lacerta is a small constellation in the northern hemisphere. It can be seen from all regions between the North Pole and the 33rd southern latitude. 33° S corresponds, for example, to approximately Santiago de Chile in Chile or north of Cape Town in South Africa. The best time to observe it in the night sky is between the months of September and November.
The constellation covers only an area of about 201 square degrees, making it rank 68th among all other 88 constellations.
To locate the Lacerta in the night sky, it is helpful to look for its neighboring constellations. In the south and southeast, the two large constellations of Andromeda and Pegasus border it. To the east lies the constellation of Cygnus. To the north of the Lacerta are the constellations of Cepheus and Cassiopeia.
The main stars form a long chain of stars that looks like a flying kite. In some visualizations, the stars are connected in a zigzag pattern and do not resemble a kite.
The Lacerta contains only faint stars. Just one star is brighter than the fourth magnitude. With an apparent magnitude of 3.77, α Lacertae (Alpha Lacertae) is the most shining star in the constellation. It is a luminous white star located about 100 light-years away from earth.
Specialties in the constellation
The Milky Way passes through the northern part of the constellation, providing some open star clusters.
The brightest of them is NGC 7243. It was discovered by the German-British astronomer William Herschel in September 1788. The star cluster is located about 2,600 light-years away from earth, and its age is estimated to be 250 million years.
However, NGC 7243, as well as the other open star clusters in the Lacerta, are challenging to detect due to the numerous stars of the Milky Way. Individual stars in the star clusters can only be observed in a medium-sized telescope.
In 1687, the constellation was first described under the name Stellio (another word for Lizard) and was subsequently changed several times in the following years. Initially, the records of the Danzig astronomer Johannes Hevelius prevailed.
However, just ten years later, the constellation was supposed to be renamed Sceptre et Manus Iustitiae (Latin: Sceptrum and Hand of Justice) in honor of the Sun King Louis XIV, also known as Louis the Great. Ninety years later, it got the name Frederici Honores (Latin: The Honours of Frederic) as a tribute to Frederick II., the King of Prussia.
Ultimately, no name of western rulers prevailed, so the name Lacerta by Johannes Hevelius remained as the recognized designation today.Published
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