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PUPPIS

The Poop Deck

argo-navis-johannes-hevelius (133K)
Argo Navis - Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius - 1687

Puppis is a southern constellation, sandwiched between the two brightest stars in the sky, Sirius above and Canopus below, and not visible in its entirety above 35 degrees north latitude. It is the Latin name for the stern of a ship, which led to the English name of poop deck. It was once part of a much larger constellation, Argo Navis, which represented the stern section of the Argos, the legendary ship that transported Jason and the Argonauts on their quest to capture the Golden Fleece. The 1687 depiction of Argo Navis above by Hevelius is reversed, as many older star charts were, as if looking down from space at the outside of a shell of stars that surrounded Earth, as the ancients originally believed they did.

In 1751, during his famous expedition to South Africa to chart the southern skies, French astronomer Nicolas Lacaille decided the ancient constellation of Argo Navis was just too large and unwieldy. There were too many stars, and too many other, mysterious objects. The area needed to be divided into smaller, more manageable constellations. But the Argo Navis was such a majestic, traditional image it couldn't simply be scrapped and replaced by new constellations. So Lacaille compromised, and left the ancient image in the sky, with all its grand mythological romance, and simply divided the figure into three parts: Puppis, the poop deck, Vela, the sail, and Carina, the keel.

Lacaille did not, however, tamper with the original Bayer Designations (Greek letter hierarchy according to brightness) of the stars in Argo Navis. This means that each of the new constellations does not necessarily have its own alpha, beta, gamma star etc., but uses the original designations assigned to the entire Argo Navis. I have taken the liberty of tracing the new constellations over the magnificent artwork of Johann Bayer's 1603 Uranometria below, to help show their ancient origins.

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Argo Navis - Uranometria by Johann Bayer - 1603





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Puppis - March 1, 10:00 PM - Latitude 30° North, Longitude 95° West

Stars of Puppis

Naos (RA: 08h03m35.008s DE:-4000'11.07")

At a magnitude of 2.21, the brightest star in the constellation is named Naos, from the Greek word for ship. It is a 06III blue giant, with a blistering surface temperature of 40,000 degrees C., making it one of the hottest stars known. Fortunately, all that heat is safely over 1,000 light years away.

Azmidiske (RA: 07h49m17.650s DE:-2451'35.25")

At the top of the poop deck is the star named Azmidiske, from the Greek word for the Aplustre, a large, ornamental overhang which protected the stern of the ship. The name was once associated with the star Turais, down by the keel of the ship in the constellation Carina, before it was moved up to the poop deck where it belonged. It is a G3I yellow supergiant. Despite its large size. Azmidiske is only the seventh brightest star in Puppis, with a magnitude of 3.34, due to its relatively low surface temperature of 4,800 degrees K, and its distance of over 1000 light years. Recently it was discovered to have a dim, 13th magnitude companion, making it a binary system.

Planets of Puppis

HD 60532 (RA: 07h34m03.137s DE:-2217'45.12")

To date, seven stars in Puppis have been found to support planetary systems. All the planets discovered so far have been gas giants, and their stars are all too dim to be seen with the naked eye, except one. With a magnitude of 4.45, star HD 60532 can be easily seen up in the northern section of the constellation. It is a F6V yellow main sequence star, with at least two gas giants in orbit around it. The system is 84 light years from Earth. For more information on these and other extrasolar planets, visit NASA's New Worlds Atlas, and The Open Exoplanets Catalogue.



Deep Skies of Puppis

M46 (RA: 07h41m 48.0s DE:-1449'00")

Puppis contains three Messier objects, all open star clusters inside the Milky Way. The first of these is M46 (NGC 2437), a grouping of about 500 stars, at a distance of 5,400 light years and a collective magnitude of 6.1. Directly in front of the cluster in the same line of sight, about 3,000 light years away, is the planetary nebula NGC 2438, a vast cloud of ionised gas cast off by a dying star at its centre.

M47 (RA: 07h36m 36.0s DE:-1429'00")

The open cluster M47, (NGC 2422), is at a distance of 1,600 light years, and contains about 50 stars, with a collective magnitude of 4.4. In the image below M46 and NGC 2438 are on the left with the star cluster M47 on the right.

m46-m47-russ dickman-cr (166K)
M46 and M47 - Open Star Clusters - Russ Dickman

NGC 2438 (RA: 07h41m 48.0s DE:-1444'00")

In this close up image of NGC 2438, the nebula lined up with M46, the central dying star can be seen as a tiny, dim, blue dot inside the nebula. The bright white stars around it are far in the background. The nebula itself has a magnitude of 10.8.

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NGC 2438 - Planetary Nebula - Nicole Bies and Esidro Hernandez/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF - November, 2003

M93 (RA: 07h44m 30.0s DE:-2351'00")

The third Messier object in Puppis is M93 (NGC 2447), another open star cluster, consisting of about 80 stars, about 3,600 light years away with a magnitude of 6.2.

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M93 - Open Star Cluster - NOAO/AURA/NSF

NGC 2477 (RA: 07h52m 12.0s DE:-3832'00")

NGC 2451 and NGC 2477 are two more open star clusters very different from each other, that can be seen together in the same field of view. In the ESO image below, NGC 2477, in the lower left of the image, is 3,600 light years away, and consists of about 300 stars, making it look almost like a globular cluster, but without the bright, dense core. It has a magnitude of 5.8.

NGC 2451 (RA: 07h45m 18.0s DE:-3758'00")

NGC 2451 is in the upper right of the image, and actually consists of two separate clusters very far apart, but in the same line of sight. The nearer group, NGC 2451A, is about 670 light years away, and contains about 50 stars. NGC 2451B is about 1,200 light years away, and contains about 60 stars.

ngc2451-2477-eso-sm (228K)
NGC 2451 and NGC 2477 - Open Star Clusters - European Southern Observatory - April, 2013

NGC 2440 (RA: 07h41m 54.0s DE:-1813'00")

NGC 2440 is another planetary nebula created by a dying star. With a magnitude of 11.5, it is about 4,000 light years away. The dying white dwarf in the centre of the nebula is one of the hottest stars known, with a surface temperature of 200,000 degrees C.

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NGC 2440 - Planetary Nebula - Hubble Space Telescope - February, 2007

NGC 2467 (RA: 07h52m 30.0s DE:-2626'00")

NGC 2467 is an open star cluster embedded in a different kind of nebula, where a star is not dying, but many stars are being born. It is vast concentration of gas and dust that is coalescing into new stars, 13,000 light years away. It is often referred to as the Skull And Crossbones Nebula, with a magnitude of 7.1.

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NGC 2467 - Open Star Cluster - European Southern Observatory, Chile - December, 2005







Winter: Orion   Canis Major   Canis Minor   Monoceros   Lepus   Eridanus   Taurus   Auriga   Camelopardalis   Lynx   Gemini   Cancer  
Spring: Hydra   Sextans   Crater   Corvus   Leo   Leo Minor   Ursa Major   Ursa Minor   Canes Venatici   Coma Berenices   Virgo   Bootes  
Summer: Draco   Corona Borealis   Hercules   Ophiuchus   Serpens   Libra   Scorpius   Sagittarius   Scutum   Aquila   Sagitta   Vulpecula   Lyra   Cygnus  
Autumn: Andromeda   Perseus   Pegasus   Cassiopeia   Cepheus   Cetus   Lacerta   Delphinus   Equuleus   Capricornus   Aquarius   Pisces   Aries   Triangulum  
Southern Skies: Centaurus   Crux   Lupus   Corona Australis   Piscis Australis   Sculptor   Tucana   Fornax   Dorado   Columba   Puppis   Carina   Vela  

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