|Puppis lies to the south west of Canis
Major in the Summer sky and contains part of the Milky Way.
Puppis was once part of the great ship Argo Navis which due to it's huge
size (it contained 829 naked eye components) was split into smaller constellations
by the French astronomer Lacaille in the 1750's, these now being Carina
the Keel, Vela the Sails, Pyxis the Compass and Puppis. One artefact
from this split is that the stars were not given new Bayer letters and
so Puppis has no star called alpha. It's brightest star is zeta Puppis,
which has no Proper Name.
Argo Navis was the Ship of the Argonauts
in Greek myth that took Jason and the fifty Argonauts to Colchis to capture
the Golden Fleece. Among the crew that joined Jason
in his quest were several well known heroes: Hercules, who didn't complete
the trip, Orpheus and his lyre and the twins we
also know as Gemini, Castor and Pollux.
The story begins with Jason's uncle, King
Pelias, who had taken over the throne of Iolchus from his half-brother
Aeson. Pelias received an oracle, though, that a descendent of Aeolus
(grandfather of Aeson and Pelias) would be his downfall. Pelias
then set out to kill all those who might be a threat to him but Jason escaped
the slaughter by being placed in the care of Chiron, the wise centaur (represented
by Centaurus in the sky), who taught him all
that a hero needed to know . Later a second oracle told Pelias to
beware of a man wearing one sandal. One day Pelias was planning to
sacrifice to his father Posiedon, god of the sea, and Jason was sent to
attend the ceremony. On the way, he helped an old woman cross a river.
The old woman was Hera in disguise and she caused one sandal to come off
and be lost during the crossing. Jason continued on to Iolchus where
Pelias saw him, and remembering the oracles word's, sent Jason on what
he thought would be an impossible quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece.
The ship and it's crew braved many dangerous
adventures on their way to Colchis, including navigating the clashing rocks
of the Symplegades, as told in Columba the Dove.
They eventually arrived in Colchis, where Jason had to hitch two fire-breathing
bulls to a plough and plough a field, then sow the field with dragon's
teeth. As soon as the teeth hit the dirt they grew into giant warriors.
Jason threw a stone among them and they fought and killed each other instead
of him. Having accomplished this the king of Colchis, Aeetes, let
Jason try and retrieve the Golden Fleece from where it was being guarded
by a dragon. Aeetes' daughter, Medea, had already helped Jason
by providing an ointment that protected the hero from the fiery breath
of the bulls and the blows of the giant warriors and now she helped charm
the dragon asleep so Jason could take the Fleece. Jason, the remaining
Argonauts and Medea returned to Iolchus and reclaimed Jason's throne.
An excerpt from Johan van
Keulen's Boeck zee-kaardt, 1709.
Puppis represents the Stern
of the Ship.
In the water below it play
two fishes, Dorado and Volans,
the Dove flies back to the ship behind it
This article is ©2002
Stargazers Astronomy Shop