Currently there are a total of 88 "official" constellations on the
charts, however this has not always been the case. The classic Greek based constellations number only 48 which come from a list first published in 150 AD. These include the nightly pageant of the Zodiac, or Orion the hunter and his dog, Canis Major and so on. For
the most part these were mythological beasts and heroes of old parading their exploits into eternity for all to see and seek
inspiration from. However in the mid-18th and 19th centuries numbers
of over zealous astronomers and celestial mapmakers introduced "new" constellations in order honor their kings or favorite pets, or to
merely fill in perceived gaps between the ancient patterns While one astronomer would recognize or popularize one of his own, a competitor would ignore him and add his own. And as such the skies
are littered with odds and ends of constellations that once were.
Most of these are rather small and uninteresting.
One of these retired constellations was Argo Navis, the 50 oared ship that carried Jason and the Argonauts on their fantastic voyages through the Crashing Rocks to recover the golden fleece. Argo was far too big of a constellation so it was "subdivided". What remains
of it are located in Carina the keel, Puppis the Poop deck, and Vela the sails.
relatively faint as far as constellations go, Puppis stretches
across a rich portion of the Milky Way star fields. Also located in
Puppis is a nice binocular star cluster, M47. It contains over 50
stars and is about 15 light years across. Also look for the red star
known as L2 Puppis. This is a double star system known as an eclipsing binary in which one member will eclipse the other on a
regular basis. Due to this it changes its brightness from a
relatively bright third magnitude down to a barely visible sixth magnitude in only 70 days.
(red circle) is a nice open cluster, an easy object for small scopes. It contains over 60 stars and is about 18 or 20 light years across.
Several other smaller star clusters may also be found here, like M46 see if you can spot them as well.
See also Kids Astronomy
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Observing the Moon
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