Southern Cross

Posted by Remo Giuffré on


Finding South Using the Southern Cross

The Southern Cross (Crux Australis) is a small constellation of stars visible only from the Southern Hemisphere. So there. It has five stars, the four brightest of which form a cross that tilts to one side.

There is no bright pole star in the Southern sky that can be used to locate due South in the same way that Polaris indicates North in the Northern Hemisphere. Instead, the Southern Cross has been used by generations of disoriented Australians, New Zealanders and other southerners as a way to find South.

Here’s how it works. Find the two very bright stars West of the Southern Cross: Alpa Centauri and Beta Centauri. They are commonly referred to as the Pointers. Find the meeting point of the perpendicular bisector of the Pointers, and the extension of the long arm of the Southern Cross. This gives you that point in the sky that is the South Celestial Pole (the pivot around which all stars orbit in the Southern Hemisphere). Drop a vertical line from the South Celestial Pole to the horizon, and this marks due South. Easy.

Also, and as per the relevant Wikipedia entry on Crux:

+ The Southern Cross used to be visible in Greece low on the southern horizon, and it was known to the ancient Greeks who included it on their star maps. However, the precession (slow wobble) of the earth’s axis over the centuries has steadily carried this part of the sky southwards.

+ The town of Southern Cross in Western Australia was so named by gold prospectors who used the constellation to guide them to a strike in 1888.

+ Other cultures have had other names for the Southern Cross. The Maori name is “Te Punga” (The Anchor); in Tonga it is known as “Toloa” (The Duck); in Indonesia and Malaysia, it is known as “Buruj Pari” (The Stingray); and for thousands of years when the Wergaia people of Lake Tyrell in Victoria looked into the night sky they saw not the Southern Cross, but a ringtailed possum sitting atop a blazing bough of light.



1. Finding Southern Cross
2. Southern Cross from New Zealand: Antonio Ferretti
3. Southern Cross Merchandise at REMO HERE

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  • Sadly co-opted by Strayans as a sort of ‘Blood & Soil’ emblem. The Crux is thus forever rooned.

    Duncan MacPherson on

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