Carina was once part of the extremely vast constellation called Argo Navis. The constellation contains several bright clusters seen well in binoculars, as well as the curious variable eta Carinae. Start your exploration of Carina at alpha Car (Canopus).
Beta Carinae is called Miaplacidus, possibly meaning Placid Waters, referring to the Argo Navis, the ship of the Argonauts. Carina forms the keel of the ship. Located in the southern portion of the constellation, the star is convenient for starhopping. From Canopus draw a line to the Southern Cross. At the midpoint of this line is Miaplacidus. In the same field is upsilon Carinae, a fine binary with a 6th-mag companion.
Chi Carinae is two full FOVs due east of Canopus. The star is well placed to find the splendid cluster NGC 2516 or for hopping up to Vela and Puppis. NGC 2516 is a bright cluster of about a hundred stars some 4500 light years away. A 5th-mag red giant is found in the centre of the cluster. The cluster is seven degrees due south of chi, in the same FOV as epsilon Carinae.
Theta Carinae is the brightest star in a cluster (IC 2602) of about thirty stars, said to resemble the Pleiades. The cluster is easily visible to the naked eye, and covers an area twice as large as the full Moon. The easiest way to find this cluster is to locate theta Carinae, at a visual magnitude 2.7 not a difficult task. The star is due south of eta Carinae and in the same FOV of this star.
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