How to Find the Southern Cross Constellation

The Southern Cross is ubiquitous enough to be featured on the Australian flag.
••• George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Unlike the star known as Polaris in the Northern Hemisphere, there is no polar star indicating south in the night sky of the Southern Hemisphere. However, there is a useful celestial marker known as Crux, or the Southern Cross. It is a constellation that roughly forms the shape of a Christian cross, and whose "vertical piece," so to speak, always points in the general direction of south when followed from its "top" to its "bottom." There is a "False Cross" constellation in the Southern Hemisphere as well, so knowing how to locate the correct one is vital for purposes of navigation.

    Face to the south in an area with a clear line of sight and an absence of light pollution. If you don't know which direction you are facing, slowly scan the horizon in a circle from your position in the winter, or scan points high in the sky in the summer.

    Search for a group of four bright stars and one faint star that form the shape of a kite. Take note of the fact that, depending on the time of the year, the shape they form will not always be an upright kite.

    Ensure that you are viewing the Southern Cross and not the "False Cross." In the immediate vicinity of the Southern Cross are two very bright "pointer stars," Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri, which form a line pointing to the "top" point of the true Southern Cross. If you don't see the pointer stars, you are looking at the False Cross.

Related Articles

The Best Time of Year to See All the Constellations
How to Locate Orion's Belt
What Are the Common Constellations Found in the Sky?
Constellations Near Orion
How to Find the Perseus Constellation
How to Calculate UTM Convergence
How to Find Pleiades
What Are the Five Major Lines of Latitude?
A Guide to Constellations for Kids
Constellations That Can Be Seen Year Round
How to Make a Constellation Project
How to See the Northern Lights
A List of Constellations Visible Seasonally
Viewing the International Space Station
How to Tell if a Cardinal Bird Is Male or Female
How to Find Mars in the Night Sky
How Do I Get the Theta Sign on My TI-84?
How to Graph a Parabola
How to Calculate the Winter Solstice Sun Angle
What Is Sun Transit & Moon Transit?