Chamaeleon the Chameleon

Chamaelon the Chameleon

Abbreviation: Cha

Genitive: Chamaeleontis

English: The Chameleon

Size Ranking: 79th

Area: 132 square degrees

Fully Visible: 7°N to 90°S.

Yet another of the lesser Southern constellations is the choice for this month. Chamaeleon is a small, somewhat faint constellation near the south celestial pole. It was introduced at the end of the 16th century by the Dutch navigators Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman. It depicts a chameleon, the lizard that changes its skin colour in order to camouflage itself. There are no legends attached to it.

The suggested path to Chamaeleon is to imagine a line starting at ‘the top star in the Southern Cross’, γCrux, passing through αCrux, ‘the bottom star in the Southern Cross’, and continuing toward the South Celestial Pole to a point which is approximately 2.6 times the distance, between γCrux and αCrux, beyond αCrux. When looking south from the Southern Cross toward Chamaeleon, βCha will be just to the left of the end of the line.

Features of Interest:

αCha, magnitude 4.1, is a white star 63ly away.

βCha, is a blue-white star 271ly away and of magnitude 4.2.

γCha, is 413ly distant, and is a magnitude 4.1 giant red star.

δCha, consists of a wide pair of unrelated stars, both of which should be visible, starting with binoculars.

δ¹ Cha, is an orange giant, magnitude 5.5 and 354ly away. δ² Cha, is a magnitude 4.4 blue star, distance 364ly. Separation is 4’25”.

NGC 3195, is a faint planetary nebula of similar apparent size to the planet Jupiter. Good optics in excess of 100mm are required to view this object.



1. Redshift 2 – Maris Multimedia

2. The Guinness Book of Astronomy – Patrick Moore

3. Stars and Planets – Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion

4. Sky Charts – Cartes du Ciel V 2.75.