by Shaphan Shank | Nov 1, 2023 | 0 comments

Lacerta, the Lizard, is a small and little-known constellation that lies along the band of the Milky Way right between the constellations Cygnus and Cassiopeia. Although its stars are all rather dim, its zigzagging shape is not too difficult to pick out. The northern part of the constellation consists of five stars arranged in a “W” shape that looks like a smaller version of Cassiopeia. This constellation was conceived by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in the late 1600s, which makes it one of the last northern constellations to be named.

Lacerta doesn’t hold an abundance of good telescopic targets, but there are a few star clusters and double stars here that are worth checking out. The double star Struve 2894 is a good target to start with. This little double star lies just 0.5° east of 1 Lacertae, the star marking the southernmost tip of Lacerta. Struve 2894 is a little too dim to see with the unaided eye from most light-polluted sites, but it is just bright enough that you should be able to see it without optical aid in a dark sky. Either way, you should be able to easily find it with a telescope due to its proximity to the brighter star 1 Lac. The component stars of Struve 2894 are separated by about 16 arcseconds, which means you should be able to comfortably split the double at low magnification.

NGC 7243 is among the best of the open star clusters scattered across Lacerta. This cluster contains several dozen loosely scattered stars in an area nearly as large as the Full Moon. The brightest member of NGC 7243 is a double star that consists of two matched components separated by about 9 arcseconds. Binoculars will show NGC 7243 as a fuzzy patch of light, perhaps with a few of the brightest stars resolved. You’ll need a telescope at low magnification to fully resolve the cluster (see the individual stars) and to split the double star within it. NGC 7243 lies in the northern part of Lacerta, 1.5° west-northwest of the star 4 Lac.

Another nice open cluster, NGC 7209, lies just over 4° southwest of 4 Lac. This cluster is slightly smaller than NGC 7243, but it appears a little richer through the eyepiece. Like NGC 7243, this cluster looks best at low magnification. Although you won’t see much detail in the cluster with a binocular, the lower magnification of a binocular will nicely frame the cluster in the rich Milky Way star field surrounding it.

star map of lacerta

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