Southern Cross or the Crux Constellation is the smallest constellation we know. It is named so because it’s shaped like a cross. It is visible from the Southern Hemisphere. It is one of the brightest constellations in the night sky, with two of its stars falling under the brightest star category (First magnitude). The Southern Cross is also depicted on the flag of Australia.
One very interesting fact about the Southern Cross is that it used to be once visible from the northern hemisphere some thousands years ago. But not anymore. This is because of the shift in the axis of the earth that happens. This phenomenon is known as precess. It happens every 26,000 years.
Crux Constellation and the sun
The story of the crucifixion of the Christ is related to the Crux Constellation. As the sun rises, it appears to hang on the cross.
How to find the southern cross
The Southern Cross in the above image can be seen on the left, in the middle. Further towards the left is the dark patch or the Coalsack.
The Southern Cross can be easily spotted with the naked eye on a clear day. It is difficult to see the Southern Cross from the Northern Hemisphere. It can be seen from the lower latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere when the Southern Cross is the highest in the sky. The Southern Cross is the highest in the Sky during spring, in the month of May.
Southern Cross Stars
With the naked eye, one can only see 5 stars in the Southern Cross. With the help of binoculars or a telescope, one can see a cluster of many blue and red stars in the Southern Cross with the bright stars more prominent and shaped like a cross.
The Crux also contains the dark Nebula, “Coalsack” in its southern part. Coalsack is the nearest nebulae to the earth, is only 600 light years away. The dark patch in the sky is visible to the naked eye and is also very noticeable.
Its stars Acrux and Gacrux were used by the ancient navigators to know the direction of the South Pole. Acrux is the 12th brightest sky in the universe.
Some other notable stars in the Southern Cross include Mimosa and Delta Crucis
Within the constellation, the crux is a cluster of stars known as the “Jewel Box” for its appearance as expensive high-end jewelry. The Coalsack is located just below the “Jewel Box”.
α Crucis or the Alpha-Crucis is the brightest star in the Crux.