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The Constellation Crux, the Southern Cross
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Crux - The Southern Cross

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you must be south of latitude 30 degrees to begin observing Crux, one of the smallest, but most easily recognized constellations in the sky. Crux lies along the Milky Way and is surrounded by Centaurus, the Centaur, on three sides.

Its brightest star is called Acrux, a combination of its Greek-letter designation (Alpha) and the name of the constellation. Acrux, which represents the foot of the cross, is a double-star system 200 light-years away. Despite its small area, Crux contains at least ten open clusters visible with small telescopes.

Because it is not visible from most latitudes in the Northern hemisphere, Crux is a modern constellation and has no Greek or Roman myths associated with it. Crux was used by explorers of the Southern hemisphere to point south since, unlike the north celestial pole, the south celestial pole is not marked by any bright star.

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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

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