Chamaeleon is a small constellation originally defined in the 16th century in western astronomy. It is a southern circumpolar constellation located south of the Constellations Carina, Volans, and Musca. Octans separates it from the South Pole.
Pontanus, in Chilmead’s “Treatise”, included it with the constellation Musca, the fly. The constellations are so close that in The Dutch cartographer Jodocus Hondius star atlas and Bayer's 1603 Uranometria the Chamaeleon is playfully depicted as eating the Musca, the fly.
The diminutive Chamaeleon constellation is not visible from anywhere north of the equator, but it is easily located in the southern sky. Its asterism looks like a small dipper that does not touch the pole, but instead revolves around it throughout the year. None of the stars are brighter than a 3 magnitude.
Right Ascension: 10:07
Diameter (°): 9
Area (square °): 132
Opposition: Feb 18
Size Rank: 79th
Brightness Rank: 73rd
Major stars in Chamaeleon
α Chamaeleontis (Alpha Chamaeleontis)
β Chamaeleontis (Beta Chamaeleontis)
δ1 Chamaeleontis (Delta-1 Chamaeleontis)
ε Chamaeleontis (Epsilon Chamaeleontis)
CT Chamaeleontis and CT Chamaeleontis b
HD 63454 – a single, hot planet, referred to as HD 63454 b, was discovered orbiting this star in 2005.
Deep Sky Objects in Chamaeleon
Mamajek 1 - Eta Chamaeleontis Cluster
Chamaeleon cloud complex
History of the Constellation Chamaeleon
Many of the constellations were catalogued by the ancient Greeks and we still refer to those designations today. The constellation Chamaeleon, however, was too far south to be part of the great mythological stories. As travel and science expanded more star formations were observed. The stars in that area were designated as Chamaeleon by Petrus Plancius from based on the observations of Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman in 1597.
The constellation is named for the intriguing chameleon reptile native to Africa, Madagascar, southern Europe, and southern Asia. Just as Lacaille named other constellations for the technology of his day, he must have been so enchanted by this color-changing insectivore that it warranted a place among the stars.
Because of its shape, the constellation Chamaeleon is sometimes referred to as the “Frying Pan” when viewed from Australia.
Toward the end of the Ming Dynasty, Chinese astronomer and mathematician Xu Guangqi (徐光啓) designated names to the visible stars in his catalog (近南極星區). This included the Chamaeleon constellation. His 9-star asterism for Chamaeleon is referred to as the little dipper (小斗),, although it is in the southern sky.
Xu Guangqi was a strong proponent of modernizing China. He could not see these southern stars from China, but he was a scholar and friend of the Jesuits who studied existing European astronomical star charts.