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Constellation Vela (Sails)

Constellation Vela (Sails)

Southern Hemisphere




The Sails of the Ship (lat. Vela) is a large constellation of the southern hemisphere. You may find in it several open star clusters, a planetary nebula and a globular cluster. Two of its bright stars, δ and κ Velorum, combined with the stars ι and ε Carinae are often mistaken for the Southern Cross. Overall, it contains five stars that have at least a magnitude of 3.

How to spot Vela

In the north, the constellation borders the Air Pump and the Compass. To the west the Stern of the Ship is located and to the south the Keel of the Ship. South of the 33rd latitude the Sails are visible in spring. 


Argo Navis was the talking ship of the hero Jason, with whom he traveled to Colchis. There he tried with the help of Hercules and the twins Castor and Pollux to steal the Golden Fleece, the fur of the sacrificed Aries. Jason’s half-brother Pelias was brought to the throne - to get it back himself, Jason should bring him the golden fur, which seemed to be an almost impossible act, as the Golden Fleece was guarded by a dragon in a sacred grove. Ultimately, the king's daughter Medea helped the hero to own the Fleece. In honor of all those involved, the Argo Navis and the Golden Fleece were consecrated as constellations.

Interesting Facts

As part of the Argo Navis, Ptolemy added it to the 48 ancient constellations. Later, in 1763, thanks to the French astronomer Nicolas de Lacaille, it became its own constellation. Lacaille thought that the constellation of Argo Navis was too large, so he divided it into the Sails, the Stern (lat. Puppis) and the Keel (lat. Carina).