If you could spot a faint lizard among the stars in the northern sky, chances are that you are looking at the constellation Lacerta. A small, faint constellation in the northern hemisphere, Lacerta lies between the constellations Andromeda and Cygnus. In Latin, Lacerta means ‘the lizard’. Just like the stars in the nearby constellation Cassiopeia, Lacerta is sometimes referred to as Little Cassiopeia because its brightest stars form a ‘W’ shape. This constellation was catalogued in the year 1687 by a Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius. It belongs to the Perseus family of constellations and is clearly visible in the month of October. Let us learn more about this constellation.

Which stars comprise of the constellation?

A few notable stars in this constellation are:

  • α Lacertae (Alpha Lacertae): Alpha Lacertae is basically a main sequence star and has a visual magnitude of about 3.777. It is the brightest star in Lacerta and is about 102 light years away from the solar system. It also has a companion with a magnitude of 11.8 and is located about 36 arch seconds away.
  • β Lacertae (Beta Lacertae): It is basically the fourth brightest star in this constellation. Beta Lacertae has a visual magnitude of about 4.43 and is about 170 light years away from the sun.
  • EV Lacertae: In Lacerta, EV Lacertae is a red dwarf and is about 16.5 light years away from the earth. It has a magnitude of about 10.09. As it is a fast spinner, it has a very strong magnetic field.
  • Roe 47: Roe 47 is a star system comprising of five components with a visual magnitude of 5.8, 9.8, 10.1, 9.4 and 9.8.
  • ADS 16402: ADS 16402 is basically a double star with an extra solar planet in its orbit. This extra solar planet is about the size of Jupiter. The binary system of this star also comprises of two stars, which are similar to the sun and are about 450 light years away. These stars have a visual magnitude of 10.0 and 10.4 
Does it contain any deep sky objects and galaxies?

Some of the notable deep sky objects of this constellation include:

  • NGC 7243 (Caldwell 16): It is basically an open cluster in Lacerta. NGC 7243 has a visual magnitude of 6.4 and is about 2,800 light years away from the solar system. Most of the stars in it are blue and white in colour. The estimated age of this cluster is believed to be over a billion years.
  • BL Lacertae: It is basically a core of galaxy, which was initially thought to be a star. It was first catalogued by the German astronomer Guno Hoffmeister in 1929. 
What is its position in the galaxy?

Lacerta lies in the fourth quadrant of the northern hemisphere and can be seen at latitudes between +90° and –40°.

How much space does it occupy in the sky?

It occupies an area of about 201 square degrees, making it the 68th constellation in size.

What is the cultural or mythological significance of Lacerta?

There is no myth or stories associated with this constellation. Johannes Hevelius gave the constellation another name Stellio after starred agama, a type of lizard.

Which are its neighbouring constellations?

Lacerta is surrounded by constellations like Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Cygnus and Pegasus. 

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