Puppis the Stern 
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, 
and Columba the Dove flies back to the ship behind it

This article is ©2002 Stargazers Astronomy Shop

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