Chameleon (abbr. Cha, gen. Chameleontis)
Chameleon. © 2003 Torsten Bronger.
Chameleon is a small, faint constellation near the south celestial pole. None of the stars in Chameleon are brighter than fourth magnitude. However, in 1999, an unusual cluster of about a dozen very young stars (about 8 million years old) was found, about 316 light-years away, centered on the reasonably bright star Eta Cha. The brightest members of the Chameleon cluster may be the only infant stars that can be seen from Earth with just binoculars or a small telescope. The cluster is unusual in being the first of over a thousand known open clusters to be discovered because of the X-ray emission of its member stars and to be the nearest to Earth found in the past 100 years. It is also odd because it appears isolated in space, instead if being in or near clouds of gas and dust that provide the raw material for star-making. The Eta Cha stars may have formed in the Scorpius-Centaurus Association and then had their gas cloud stripped away by powerful stellar winds in the Sco-Cen cloud.
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