, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The night sky is different down here in NZ. It kind of blows the mind at first. One of the most obvious differences is the lack of most familiar constellations.

The Southern Cross, as it is colloquially dubbed, is proper known as the constellation Crux. It is the smallest of the 88 modern constellations, with only 5 stars making up the asterism. There are two pointer stars (Alpha and Beta Centauri) that “lead” one’s gaze to the cross.

The stars of Crux are called:
Acrux (α)
Mimosa (β)
Gacrux (γ)
-δ, which has no name
-ε, which is located inside the cross.

The Southern Cross is used to locate the southern celestial pole, as the Southern Hemisphere does not have an easily discernible polestar like the Northern Hemisphere does (Polaris). Knowing where the poles are helped sailors and the like navigate. The technique for finding approximate south is:
-trace a line between Acrux and Gacrux
-trace a line between Alpha and Beta Centauri
-the place of perpendicular intersection between these two lines indicates the celestial southern pole.

Crux is represented on several flags, including New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa. Curiosly, Aotearoa’s flag only features four of the five stars of Crux (ε being left out).

In Maori, Crux is known as Te Punga, meaning “anchor.”

(Images from Google image search.)