For those looking to learn about the Vela constellation, then you’re definitely in the right place. The famous Sail constellation is bordered by several other constellations, and it actually was only part of a constellation with two others until the 18th Century. lets look at some details about Vela.
- Bordered By; Antlia, Pyxis, Puppis, Carina, Centaurus
- Named after; The Ship Sail
- Declination; -50°
- Brightest Star; Gamma Velorum
- Best seen; Southern Hemisphere, March
- Size rank; 32nd
- Constellation family; Heavenly Waters
- Pronunciation; VELL-AH
Who Founded the Vela Constellation?
Originally, the Vela constellations formed part of the Argo Navis constellation listed by Ptolemy all the way back in the 2nd Century. Later on, Nicolas Louis de Lacaille (who also found 14 other constellations) split the Argo constellation into three different parts, which we now know today as Vela, Carina (derived from the Latin for the keel) and Puppis (derived from the Latin for the Poop Deck).
What is Vela named after?
As you might have guessed from the Puppis and the Carina, the Vela is also named after a part of a ship; it’s actually Latin for the Ship’s sail. The original ship constellation the Argo, also know as the Argo Navis, was actually taken from Greek mythology. It is actually the ship sailed by Jason, probably best known today as the Hero in the myth Jason and the Argonauts. Jason sailed the Argo in search of his golden fleece.
How can I see the Vela constellation?
The best months to see Vela are in February and March in the Southern hemisphere.
Main Stars of Vela
Not only is there a lot of stars in the constellation Vela, but it has quite a lot going on around it too. Let’s look at the stars that make up the Vela constellation, as well as it’s surrounding Nebula. You can map these stars up with the picture below.
- Gamma Velorum (γ) – Gamma Velorum is the brightest star in this constellation. Actually, as said earlier, this was previously part of the Argo constellation which was split up – this explains why there’s no alpha or beta star in this constellation. Gamma Velorum is intersting because it’s a quadruple star system. This means that it’s essentially four stars which orbit each other! γ2 is a blue supergiant star and the Wolf-Rayer star, whilst γ1 is a blue giant star and another star which we cannot see clearly.
- Delta Velorum (δ) – Delta Velorum is on the border with another constellation Carina, and it’s a triple star system – as you probably guessed, that’s three stars together! In Arabic, this star is referred to as al-safīnah, which literally means the ship, showing it’s importance within the constellation.
- Lambda Velorum (λ) – Lambda Velorum is the third brightest star in this constellation that is approximately 32 million years old, which is quite young in star years. It has an orange coloring, and is also known by it’s Arabic name Suhail.
- Kappa Velorum (κ) – This star is made up from two different stars, which we call a binary star system. It’s split into A and B – both of these are subgiant stars.
- Mu Velorum (μ) – Mu Velorum is another binary pair of stars, with the primary star being a giant star with more than 100x the luminosity of the Sun. The secondary sat is a main sequence star, which are the most abundant in the universe.
- Phi Velorum (φ) – This is a singular blue-white supergiant star. Astronomers estimate that it is more than 1500 light years from the Earth.
- Omicron Velorum (ο) – Omicron Velorum is a subgiant star, also sometimes referred to as the o Velorum cluster. Astronomers argue that this may actually be part of another constellation, Puppis, due to the way that it was written by it’s founder.
- Psi Velorum (ψ) – This binary star is visible without a telescope due to it’s brightness.
As well as these stars, there are also several Nebula in this constellation. This includes;
- Eight Burst Nebula – The Eight Burst Nebula is 2000 light years away from us, and generated from the outer layers of a star.
- Pencil Nebula – Interestingly enough, this nebula was first seen in 1835 by English astronomer John Herschel, who named seven of the moons of Saturn and four of Uranus (which was discovered by his father!).
- Gum Nebula – Another interesting one, the Gum Nebula is actually supposedly the result of a supernova that happened over a million years ago.
The Vela Constellation is made up from numerous different stars, with Gamma Velorum being the brightest. As well as this, there are several different constellations within Vela too, so it might be worth trying to find it with your telescope!