For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, we’re paying tribute today to the Southern Cross, also known as the constellation Crux. No matter where you live in the Southern Hemisphere, look in your southern sky for the Southern Cross as soon as darkness falls.
At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s now late autumn, we astronomers say the Southern Cross swings to upper meridian transit – its high point in the sky – at early evening, or somewhere around 7 to 8 p.m. local time.
The photo below is from the Philippines also. It’s from Dr Ski, who posts frequently to EarthSky Community Photos:
Because the Southern Cross is circumpolar – always above the horizon – at all places south of 35 degrees south latitude, people at mid-southern latitudes can count on seeing the Southern Cross all night long, every night of the year. Watch for the Southern Cross to move like a great big hour hand, circling around the south celestial pole in a clockwise direction throughout the night. The Southern Cross will sweep to lower meridian transit – its low point in the sky – around 7 to 8 a.m. local time tomorrow.
If the Southern Cross is circumpolar in your sky, then the Big Dipper never climbs above your horizon.
Conversely, if the Big Dipper is circumpolar in your sky, then the Southern Cross never climbs above your horizon. Additionally, the W or M-shaped constellation Cassiopeia is also circumpolar at northerly latitudes. See the animation below.
However, if you live in the tropics, there are times when you can actually see the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross in the same sky together. In early June, for instance, the Southern Cross and Big Dipper reach upper transit – their high point – at virtually the same time.
You have a better chance of seeing the Southern Cross and the Big Dipper in the same sky right now from the southern tropics. That’s because the late autumn season in the Southern Hemisphere ushers in an earlier sunset time than at comparable latitudes in the northern tropics, where it is now late spring.
Bottom line: A tribute to the Southern Cross, also known as the constellation Crux.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.