Columba the Dove
Columba is one of the "newer" constellations, appearing in Bayer's famous atlas of 1604 and being often mentioned thereafter but it is connected to two much older stories.  It is no coincidence that it lies close to the great ship Argo Navis, now split into the smaller constellations of Puppis, Carina and Vela. 

One story connects Columba with Noah's ark, from the Bible.  After floating on the waters for many days Noah released a dove to see of there was someplace to land the ark.  The first time the dove returned with nothing.  The second time it returned with a olive branch, showing Noah that the waters were receeding.  The third time the dove did not return and Noah knew that there was land once more.

he other story is from Greek mythology and concerns the voyages of the Jason and the Argonauts.  To reach Colchis the Argonauts had to sail through the clashing rocks of the Symplegades (the Bosphorus, or the opening of the Black Sea).  In those times the rocks rushed together whenever a ship tried to pass through, crushing them to splinters.  The Argonauts tried to trick the rocks by sending a dove through first.  The rocks crashed together and the dove escaped (with a helping push from the goddess Athena) with only the loss of a few tail feathers.  While the rocks reset themselves the Argonauts hurried through and just made it before the rocks crashed together once more, but loosing a few oars and part of the stern of the Argo.  In doing so they broke the spell on the rocks and ever since they have stood silent and still, marking the straight leading into the Black Sea.

Alpha Columbae shines at only magnitude 2.6 and while it has a proper name, Phakt, or sometime Phaet, its derivation is unknown.

An excerpt from Johan van Keulen's Boeck zee-kaardt, 1709.
It is depicted here at the stern of the great ship Argo Navis (Noah's Ark)
holding the olive branch in it's beak.

This article is ©2002 Stargazers Astronomy Shop

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