Earth and the Moon

Stargazing Basics

What are two useful star patterns to know when stargazing toward the southern sky?

If you are in the northern hemisphere—such as in the United States—you cannot see the south celestial pole. On the other hand, if you are in the southern hemisphere—for example, in Australia or Chile—you cannot see the north celestial pole. In that case, the constellation Crux (the Southern Cross) is a small, but clearly identifiable, kite-shaped constellation embedded in the Milky Way. The long axis of Crux points downward toward the south celestial pole. Horizontally off the left side of Crux are the two brightest stars in the constellation Centaurus (the Centaur). Alpha Centauri is the brighter of the two, and a line from it to Beta Centauri seems to point to the Southern Cross; so together, these two stars are often called the Pointers.


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