The constellations of the Chameleon and the Flying Fish (Chamaeleon-Cha) and (Volans-Vol)

The Chameleon


The name, the story, the myth


portrayal of the Chameleon

The small southern circumpolar constellation of the Chameleon ("lion crawling on earth") is relatively recent, was introduced by the Dutch navigators Pieter Keyser and Frederick Houtman who were in Madagascar between 1595 and 1597, and created by Plancius in 1598. It was made official in 1603.

The explorers of the 16th and 17th centuries populated the southern sky with figures often representing "new", "exotic" animals, such as the chameleon.


In 1598 Plancius, as mentioned, drew in the globe the Chameleon near the constellation of The Fly, but as if disinterested in it, facing the opposite direction. But Hondius in his globe (1600) represented the animal with the tongue stretched out towards the Moscow, and since then this representation was adopted, becoming the official and standard iconography.

The constellation of the Chameleon


We immediately see in the celestial map of Stellarium that the Chameleon is located in the deep southern hemisphere not far from the South Celestial Pole and therefore completely invisible at our latitudes: but it is not even well visible in the other hemisphere, since its three main stars, α, β and γ Cha, are just 4th magnitude. As we will see, it doesn't even have near stars, but only a couple of big stars and some deep sky objects.

Clicking on the animation next to it, you will open, as always, the 3D applet that allows you to see in 3 dimensions the constellation, apparently drawn on a virtual sheet, which we can rotate with the left and right arrows, discovering how far they are from the sheet according to their distance. We can also see the representation that H.A.Rey had created: pressing "f" we get a new drawing, but I challenge anyone to see in it the not really nice reptile.

We also see that no star is so close (not even α Cha, which is 64 al our distance) that it deserves a trip to discover new worlds and new locations of the Sun: my Chantalli friends have in fact confirmed to me that they do not see the Sun with the naked eye, so it is not even necessary to take pictures. Since I don't trust them (they have big tongues) I verified with Celestia that the star field is not very significant.


Hevelius gave of the Chameleon a customary representation

the Chameleon according to Hevelius

as well as Stellarium.

the Chameleon according to Stellarium

The few characteristics of the constellation

comparison between the stars of the Chameleon and other notes

Said that the constellation has no stars to which a name has been assigned, from the comparison diagram with the well known star monsters, we see that there are two interesting stars: the first is γ Cha, a red giant of class M0, with a radius equal to 67 times that of the Sun, almost as big as the well known Rigel. The second star for physical size is instead κ Cha, an orange giant of class K4, with a ray of 40 times that of our yellow dwarf is once again bigger than Aldebaran: my friends Kapcha are obviously proud of it, at least I imagine, because I haven't been able to contact them.

intergalactic access

To access their intergalactic site you have to insert a pair of words taken from two images: it's a pity that the words to be inserted are written in unrecognizable characters and therefore cannot be inserted with our keyboards. The Kapcha have always locked themselves in this impenetrability: happy for them...

But let's leave aside the facetiousness and move on to the deep sky objects, represented first of all by an open cluster formed by a dozen stars, Mamayek 1, of which I found this only not very detailed image


the open cluster Mamayek 1

The other object inside the constellation is the planetary nebula NGC 3195

the planetary nebula NGC 3195

Having said that, let's move on to the other constellation, which has some remarkable deep sky objects.

The Flying Fish


The name, the history, the myth


depiction of the Flying Fish

The Flying Fish constellation was introduced at the end of the 16th century by Frederick de Houtman and Pieter Keyser and then included in the constellation catalogue in 1603 by Bayer. There are no mythological stories related to the constellation, perhaps precisely because it was recently established, but its name refers precisely to the impression given by the so-called "sea swallows" or "swallow fish", fish that by virtue of their large pectoral fins, which almost act as wings, fly over the surface of the ocean water for hundreds of meters.

Once it was known as 'Piscis Volans', but now only the second part of the name, the adjective, has remained.

the constellation Flying Fish

Here is another very little known southern constellation, in Latin Volans, which represents the flying fish. It is found little more to north of the Chameleon and it is perhaps a little more visible (but not at our latitudes) since four of its stars have the digit 3 in the magnitude: however for rounding they are of 4th magnitude. From the diagram realized as always with Stellarium we see that very close to the Flying Fish there is the bright Miaplacidus, of the Carena, that should allow the individuation of this constellation in the sky.


As always, by clicking on the animation alongside we can run the applet that provides the three-dimensional representation of the constellation starting from its usual display on a virtual sheet: with the left and right arrows we can rotate it to find out how far apart the component stars are. Pressing "f" instead you will have the representation born from the fervent mind of the late lamented H.A.Rey, who wasn't so clever in this case either.

Let's see instead the representation of Hevelius of the Flying Fish

the Flying Fish according to Hevelius

and the one given by Stellarium

the Flying Fish according to Stellarium

Stars and deep sky objects

δ Vol seen from 1 UA

There are no very large stars in the Flying Fish: the largest is δ Vol, a white giant of spectral class F6 with a radius of 25 times that of the Sun. As always accustomed to rays of hundreds of times, such a value seems very low, but just try to think of a star with a ray of 25 times that of the Sun: at a distance of 1 UA (and not the usual 10 UA, but just the distance of the Earth from the Sun) this star appears really dazzling, with an apparent diameter of more than 12°: only thanks to my friends Deltavolini we can realize this thanks to the photo they sent me. If you allow me another joke, before moving on to wonderful photos, there is no star 8 Vol in this constellation: the astronomers who designate the names and acronyms of the stars have no sense of humour...

Let's start instead a quick overview of the deep sky objects present in this constellation, photographed by the excellent HST and of which we can see a high resolution version by clicking on the single photos. Let's start with the beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 2397

the galaxy NGC 2397

followed by another fantastic spiral galaxy, NGC 2442 (called Meathook Galaxy, butcher's hook galaxy)

the galaxy NGC 2442

and from another galaxy, this time elliptical, NGC 2434.

the galaxy NGC 2434

Finally, I close by showing you a lenticular galaxy that has a ring of stars probably originated due to the interaction (and certainly not clash) with another galaxy in very remote times: it is the galaxy AM0644-741, named Lindsay-Shapley Ring by the surnames of the Astronomers who discovered it.

the lenticular ring galaxy AM0644-741

I find it absolutely worthy to be placed on the desktop of our PC!



Audio Video The constellations of the Chameleon and the Flying Fish (Chamaeleon-Cha) and (Volans-Vol)
ForConstellationsLovers is a website created by constellation lovers, our aim is to share all the information about the world of stars and mythology. Here you can find both the meanings of the constellations, as well as their mythology or location, apart from that, you can play the best online constellation games. Discover the history of the constellations and their beauty!
The Constellation Virgin (Virgo - Vir) ❯
Add a comment of The constellations of the Chameleon and the Flying Fish (Chamaeleon-Cha) and (Volans-Vol)
Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.