The winter Milky Way flows to the east of brilliant Sirius and Canis Major through a region of our southern sky filled with faint stars. Once, those faint stars formed the constellation Argo Navis, the mighty mythical ship that carried Jason and the Argonauts as they searched for the Golden Fleece on the eastern shores of the Black Sea in present-day Georgia. Or so the story went.
To commemorate those adventures, Ptolemy immortalized the ship as one of the original 48 constellations in his work, the Almagest. Like the ship, the constellation was huge, covering almost 1,700 square degrees, or 4 percent of the entire sky.
Because of this unwieldiness, the 18th-century astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille divided Argo into three parts, which we still recognize and use today: Puppis the Poop Deck or stern; Carina the Keel or body; and Vela the Sails.
This month, we will set sail for Puppis, a small region of the late winter Milky Way that is rich in buried binocular treasure.
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