The Constellation Vela

by Dominic Ford
Vela Vela
The constellation Vela. Roll mouse over to see labels.
Source: Stellarium.

Vela is visible in the southern evening sky in the months around February. The Milky Way runs through it and so it is home to numerous open clusters, including fifteen which are brighter than tenth magnitude.

The stars δ-Vel and κ-Vel, together with Avior and Tureis, form the False Cross, an asterism which is easily mistaken for the nearby Southern Cross in Crux.

Until the eighteenth century, Vela was part of the much larger ancient constellation of Argo Navis, listed by Ptolemy among his 48 constellations in the second century. Argo Navis covered over 4% of the sky, an area 25% larger than the biggest modern constellation, Hydra.

In 1763, Nicolas Louis de Lacaille divided it up into three parts: Carina, Puppis and Vela. As a result of this relatively recent subdivision, the Bayer designations (α, β, γ, etc) are split between the stars of the three constellations.

In classical mythology, Argo Navis was the ship sailed by Jason and the Argonauts on their voyage to recover the golden fleece. Vela represents the ship's sail.

Date First Appeared
1756 (Lacaille)
Sky Area
1.2% of the sky
499.6 square degrees
Messier Objects
Vela contains no Messier objects
Caldwell Objects
Vela contains the following Caldwell objects: C74, C79, C85.
Neighbors
The following constellations neighbor Vela: Antlia, Carina, Centaurus, Puppis, Pyxis.
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Brightest Objects in Vela

Stars Open Clusters Globular Clusters Galaxies
Stars Open Clusters Globular Clusters Galaxies
γ²-Vel (mag 1.8) IC 2391 (mag 2.5) NGC 3201 (mag 8.2) NGC 3261 (mag 11.0)
δ-Vel (mag 1.9) IC 2395 (mag 4.6) NGC 3256 (mag 11.3)
Suhail (mag 2.2) NGC 2547 (mag 4.7) NGC 3263 (mag 11.5)
κ-Vel (mag 2.5) NGC 3228 (mag 6.0) NGC 3318 (mag 12.0)
μ-Vel (mag 2.7) NGC 2669 (mag 6.1) NGC 3366 (mag 12.8)
N Vel (mag 3.2) NGC 2910 (mag 7.2) NGC 3482 (mag 13.5)
φ-Vel (mag 3.5) NGC 2645 (mag 7.3) NGC 2845 (mag 13.7)
o Vel (mag 3.6) IC 2488 (mag 7.4) NGC 3262 (mag 13.8)
ψ-Vel (mag 3.6) NGC 3330 (mag 7.4) IC 2592
c-Vel (mag 3.7) NGC 2670 (mag 7.8) NGC 2736
b-Vel (mag 3.8) NGC 2925 (mag 8.3)
q-Vel (mag 3.8) NGC 2659 (mag 8.6)
p-Vel (mag 3.8) NGC 2660 (mag 8.8)
a-Vel (mag 3.9) NGC 3033 (mag 8.8)
d-Vel (mag 4.1) NGC 3105 (mag 9.7)
e-Vel (mag 4.1) NGC 2972 (mag 9.9)
γ¹-Vel (mag 4.2) NGC 2671 (mag 11.6)
x-Vel (mag 4.3) NGC 2849 (mag 12.5)
M-Vel (mag 4.3) NGC 2866
i-Vel (mag 4.4) NGC 3446
w-Vel (mag 4.5)
J-Vel (mag 4.5)
GZ Vel (mag 4.6)
m-Vel (mag 4.6)
k-Vel (mag 4.6)

Ashburn

Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

39.04°N
77.49°W
EDT

Color scheme