What is the Southern Cross?

Megan Whewell from the National Space Centre answers this question for us.

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Image credit: Naskies

Asked by Nelson Kilkenny

The Southern Cross is one of the most recognisable patterns of stars in the southern night sky, and forms part of the constellation Crux. The Southern Cross itself is actually classed as an asterism, not a constellation, as the word ‘constellation’ applies to 88 specific areas of the whole night sky.

The Southern Cross is made up of the four brightest stars within Crux but can sometimes be confused with the nearby asterism called the False Cross (part of the constellation Vela). The easiest way to be sure you’ve found the Southern Cross is to look for a fifth star under the right hand arm of the cross and two bright pointer stars (Alpha and Beta Centauri) drawing a line through the sky which points towards it.


Answered by Megan Whewell, Education Team Presenter for the National Space Centre

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