Quick question: what is your favorite constellation?
Most people will say classics, such as—Orion, Leo, Ursa Major, Sagittarius, Scorpius and blah, blah, blah. Those are very respectable constellations! I mean, who doesn’t like Orion, right? Orion’s Belt is arguably one of the most prominent stellar ornaments. Orion’s choice of fashion makes everything else around it look like shit. There’s also a famous nebula close by, but who cares about space gas? Everyone.
Let’s pretend that you asked me what my favorite constellation is.
My answer will always be: Lacerta.
La-what? What the hell is a “Lacerta?” Are these the types of thoughts rattling through your skull? Don’t lie. Yes—Lacerta is an actual constellation. I’m not surprised if you never heard of it. This peculiar constellation is near Andromeda, which may explain why Lacerta receives no loving attention: Andromeda is hogging the limelight. What a shocker.
Lacerta is small, kind of dim, but apparent enough to stumble across, as I did. When I first caught glimpse of this stellar lizard, I didn’t know exactly what I was looking at—if anything. The shape of the stars, what I later learned was actually a lizard’s head, haunted me for the rest of the night. Yes, you read that correctly.
When I first witnessed this so-called “Lizard head”, I thought it was a kite. That’s what it looks like, don’t it? Please tell me I’m right…right?
I can also see a lizard’s head if I try really, really hard. What do you see?
Later that night, I scanned a map of Andromeda, and what did I happen to see nearby? The same odd stellar pattern I discovered earlier that same night. My interest blossomed as I read the little information printed on the map.
I don’t feel like getting into the history of Lacerta, so if you’re inclined to read about this stellar lizard—click this magical link.
To the greedy observer, Lacerta seems to lack celestial treasures. Is this really true? Sort of. You will not find any glorious nebula of any breed, nor will you find any pretty galaxies. Quite frankly, you won’t find shit in the deep sky department, but that doesn’t mean Lacerta is useless…right?
What I mean is: everyone has different goals when it comes to exploring the night sky. Some people gravitate toward planetary nebula. Some people are star cluster voyeurs. Some people spy on galactic islands. Some people admire variable stars. Some people gawk at planets. Some people explore the moon. We all have our individual interests, so who’s to say that Lacerta has nothing to offer?
If you ask me—that’s why Lacerta is appealing—because it’s not littered with any of those ego-boosting nebula. Lacerta will only cater to individuals that are interested in stars. Why? That’s all Lacerta has! The exception is BL Lacertae, which turned out to be the core of a galaxy.
It’s interesting to note that one of these stars, EV Lacertae, holds the world record for the most powerful flare ever observed. This event took place on September 25, 2008—EV Lacertae nearly blinded NASA’s Swift satellite.
Lacerta is home to a handful of interesting stars, if you’re into that kind of thing. Some people don’t give a rat’s ass about variable stars or moody red dwarfs, but if you do happen to care about such things, Lacerta is absolutely worth investigating.
Are you ready for some confusion?
I had the displeasure of scouring through a few maps of Lacerta. Guess what? Every single map is slightly different! I know, I know, very convenient. Some of the maps look nothing like the one printed in my book. I don’t know what’s going on, check it out: here, here, here, and here.
Are people making up their own shapes? Was Lacerta updated a few years ago? Your guess is as good as mine. I am genuinely confused, maybe what I photographed is not Lacerta’s head (highly unlikely). Then again, I don’t know what else it could be. Do you?
I’ll write more about Lacerta in the future (when I’m less lazy and possibly more educated).