|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
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
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