• Argo Navis the Ship of the Argonauts

    Asterism Visual Appearance

    Argo Navis is located between between Antlia, Centaurus, Chamaeleon, and Musca. Canopus, once alpha-Argus, now lies in Carina.

    Asterism Origin and History

    An ancient constellation, the only one of Ptolemy's 48 no longer used.  In the 18th century, the French astronomer Lacaille dismantled Argo Navis into three smaller constellations: Carina the Keel, Puppis the Stern or Poop, and Vela the Sail. Small Pyxis the Compass is located nearby.

    Asterism Skylore

    Argo Navis was the ship which Argus built for Jason and his crew, the Argonauts, to carry them on their quest for the Golden Fleece. After their many adventures, Athena raised their ship to the sky.

  • Fusion Image 2

    Source: Vincenzo Coronelli, Celestial Globe Gores (Paris, 1693; reprint ca. 1800); History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries
    Object: NGC 3372, with Eta Carinae, in Argo Navis; European Southern Observatory (ESO). IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R.Gendler, J-E. Ovaldsen, C. Thöne, and C. Feron. (CC-by)
    Composite: The Sky Tonight, skytonight.org (CC-by)

    Object description

    This diffuse interstellar gas cloud was discovered in 1751 by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille as he was observing from the Cape of Good Hope. It surrounds the irregular variable Eta Carinae, one of the most massive, luminous and mysterious of stars. In 1843, Eta Carinae shone brighter than any star except Sirius.

    Fusion Image 2

    Constellations IAU Abbr

    Constellation description

    Argo Navis, the ship of the Argonauts, was included in the ancient star catalogs of Eudoxos of Knidos, Aratos of Soli, and Ptolemy. In 1756, Lacaille dismantled Argo Navis into three smaller constellations: Carina the Keel, Puppis the Stern or Poop, and Vela the Sail.

    Source Description

    Coronelli was an influential maker of celestial and terrestrial globes. To make a globe, 24 pie-shaped map sections, called gores, would be hand-colored, cut out and glued onto a wood and paper-maché base. These 3 gores were part of a set produced to make a celestial globe 3 and half feet in diameter. They were designed by Arnold Deuvez and engraved by Jean-Baptiste Nolin in Paris. The set was a reprint of gores printed in Venice in 1688. At the time, Coronelli’s 1688 globe was the largest and most accurate printed celestial globe. The Latin and French legends distinguish this 1693 Paris reprint from the 1688 originals, which were in Italian. These gores are reprints made in 1800 using the original 1693 plates.

  • Bode (1801), plate 2: Libra Planisphere


    Uranographia Tab II. Stellatum Hemisphaeri um Librae

    Bode included two planisphere plates. They are not southern and northern hemispheres; each one has Polaris at the top and the south pole at the bottom. Each one is centered upon an equinox point (where the ecliptic or path of the Sun and the celestial equator intersect). The March equinox point was in Aries in antiquity; by Bode’s time, due to the precession of the equinoxes, it had shifted to Pisces. The September equinox point was in Libra in antiquity; by Bode’s time it had shifted to Virgo.  Bode titled the plates as the Aries and Libra planispheres.

    The Libra planisphere, centered on the September equinox in Virgo, includes these constellations, among others, which appear high overhead in the night skies of spring:

    Equatorial:  Ophiuchus, Serpens, Libra, Virgo, Crater, Corvis, Hydra, Sextans, Leo, Cancer, Monoceros.

    Northern:  Hercules, Quadrans Muralis, Bootes, Canes Venatici, Ursa Major, Telescopium Herschelii, Gemini, Lynx, Ursa Minor.

    Southern:  Scorpius, Tubus Astronomicus, Lupus, Centaurus, Apis, Chameleon, Crux, Argo Navis, Robur Caroli II, Circinus (sector compass), Canis Major, Pixis Nautica (magnetic compass), Machina Pneumatica (air pump), Officina Typographica (printing press).

    In September, the Libra-Virgo equinox (the center of the Libra plate) is traveling with the Sun, rising in the east in the morning and setting in the west in the evening.  Imagine the center of the planisphere has the Sun pinned to it for that day, and that’s how it would move across the sky. Therefore the constellations near the center of this planisphere are invisible in the daytime sky at that time unless there is a solar eclipse.  They would be visible directly opposite the Sun at the March equinox.