Vela is one of the three parts into which the ancient Greek constellation of Argo Navis (the ship of the Argonauts) was divided by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille. It represents the sails of the ship. Vela lies in the Milky Way with Carina and Puppis, the other two portions of the ship, on one side, and Centaurus on the other. Since it is only a part of the once-larger constellation, Vela contains no stars labeled Alpha or Beta.
Depiction: The Sails
Highest in the Sky: February to April
Size Ranking: 32nd
Coverage Area: 500 Sq. Degrees
Right Acension: 9 hours
Visibility: 30°N to 90°S
Gamma Velorum: Wolf-Rayet star
IC 2391: Open cluster
NGC 2547: Open cluster
NGC 3132: Eight-burst Nebula
NGC 3201: Globular cluster
Suhail al Muhlif, Gamma Velorum
Alsuhail, Lambda Velorum
Best Viewed Objects/Stars
A multiple star. Through a small telescope or even good binoculars, it appears as a wide double star. The primary, Gamma-2, is the brightest star in the constellation, at magnitude 1.8. It is a spectroscopic binary, one component of which is a Wolf-Rayet star, a rare type of ultra-hot star that has lost its outer hydrogen layers. The primary's visible partner, Gamma-1 is an ordinary blue-white wider companions of 8th and 9th magnitudes, which are visible through a small telescope.
An open cluster visible with binoculars or a small telescope. It is more than half the apparent size of the full Moon and lies 1,300 light years away.
NGC 3132 (The Eight-Burst Nebula)
A planetary nebula. Its rounded disk is visible with a small telescope, which may also reveal the 10th-magnitude star at its center. Photographs show complex loops within the nebula.
A large open cluster, visible to the naked eye and an ideal object for binocular observation, covering a greater area of sky than the full moon. Its brightest star is Omicron Velorum, magnitude 3.5. The cluster lies nearly 600 light-years away.