Lacerta, the Lizard, is a faint zig-zag shaped constellation closely located to Andromeda, Cepheus, Cassiopeia and Cygnus. It is best viewed in October in the northern skies. The brightest of stars in this constellation are Alpha Lacertae, a magnitude 3.8 star, and Beta Lacertae of magnitude 4.4. The constellation itself has a few fine binaries and several deep sky objects, and is known for several bright novae seen in the 20th century.

Very little to no myths or legends surround Lacerta, although the name has found dispute in the past. Stars in the area were first named in 1679 by the French astronomer Augustin Royer, who took stars from nearby constellations and called the whole area the "Scepter and the Hand of Justice" to honor King Lous XIV of France. In 1687, Johannes Hevelius, a Polish astronomer known for his charts of the lunar surface (Selenographia, 1647), named the star "Stellio the Triton" after a European newt with star-like spots. This name may have been inspired by the Chinese name for it T'ang Chen, or the Awakening Serpent.

Johannes Hervelius later changed the name to Lacerta, The Lizard, but still the name found some dispute with Johann Bode who named it "Honores Frederici" for his king. All other names have fallen away, though, and Lacerta has stuck with it.

Lacerta is one of the seven constellations discovered and published about by Johannes Hervelius in Prodromus Astronomiae, his star catalog published 3 years after his death by his wife. The six other stars first discovered and cataloged by Hervelius are: Vulpecula, Canes Venatici, Leo Minor, Lynx, Scutum, and Sextans.


Resources:
http://www.dibonsmith.com/lac_con.htm
http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Lab/8108/constela/lacert.html
http://www.theskyguide.com/observing/c-names.html

La*cer"ta (?), n. [L. lacertus the arm.]

A fathom.

[Obs.]

Domesday Book.

 

© Webster 1913.


La*cer"ta, n. [L. a lizard. See Lizard.]

1. Zool.

A genus of lizards. See Lizard.

⇒ Formerly it included nearly all the known lizards. It is now restricted to certain diurnal Old World species, like the green lizard (Lacerta viridis) and the sand lizard (L. agilis), of Europe.

2. Astron.

The Lizard, a northern constellation.

 

© Webster 1913.

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