Chamaeleon – the chameleon

October 8, 2017

Astronomy

The constellation Chamaeleon represents a chameleon, the color-changing lizard, so nothing lost in translation there. You do lose an “a” when you spellcheck it.

This group of stars is as southern as you can go in the sky without being at the actual bottom.

There is no Greek or Babylonian thing to go with this one. There is a fun African yarn where some gods, in typical god fashion, send both a chameleon and some other kind of lizard to give separate messages to humans. The chameleon’s message to humans was that we would live forever. The other lizard’s message was that humans must someday die. The chameleon kind of dicked around on route, probably trying out different colors and stuff. The other lizard gets there first and his message comes true. I’m not sure what the moral is but this story is completely unrelated to the constellation.

Chamaeleon is one of twelve constellations created by Petrus Plancius that showed up on a celestial globe he made in 1597. When Jodocus Hondius added it to his maps he had the chameleon sticking its tongue out to catch the neighboring constellation of Musca (the fly) and everyone was like “He’s catching the fly! That’s awesome how do you think of this stuff.”

Mamajek is my favorite of the several names given to an open star cluster discovered in Chamaeleon in 1999. It is estimated to be only around eight million years old or so. That’s damn young for a nest of stars. Stars that young are mostly still going through that difficult tantrum-throwing stage. They’ll eventually calm down and do the main sequence thing but for now we have to put up with all their ultraviolet belly-aching. Meanwhile planets are forming around them. Maybe that will distract them, like a larger version of those mobiles we hang above babies’ cribs.

Carpe Noctem

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