The Crux Constellation is the smallest but one of the most well known in the southern sky. Also called “The Southern Cross” it is surrounded on three sides by the Centaur. Its description is most often attributed to Frenchman Augustine Royer in about 1679, whereas Johann Bayer drew it over the hind legs of the Centaur.
In any case, it is a brilliant but narrow asterism three or four degrees wide, looking more like a kite than a cross. There has been much poetry and romance attached to it over the years because of the fascination it holds for mariners.
The constellation is not viewable in the United States and most of the Northern Hemisphere, but it is a favorite constellation south of the equator where it can be viewed year-round.
The nearest constellations are Centaurus and Musca.
Right Ascension: 12:33
Diameter (°): 5
Area (square °): 68
Opposition: Mar 29
Size Rank: 88th
Brightness Rank: 15st
Major or notable stars in Crux
Acrux – α Crucis (Alpha Crucis)
Mimosa (Becrux) – β Crucis (Beta Crucis)
Gacrux – γ Crucis (Gamma Crucis)
Imai – δ Crucis (Delta Crucis)
ζ Crucis (Zeta Crucis)
Ginan – ε Crucis (Epsilon Crucis)
θ Crucis (Theta Crucis)
λ Crucis (Lambda Crucis)
ι Crucis (Iota Crucis)
Deep Sky Objects in Crux
Coalsack Nebula (Caldwell 99)
Jewel Box Cluster (Kappa Crucis Cluster, NGC 4755)
Mythology of the Constellation Crux
The tilt of the earth has changed the visibility of Crux over the centuries. It was once viewable to the ancient Greeks and considered part of the Constellation Centaurus.
By the 4th century, the constellation was not visible at all through most of the Northern Hemisphere. Although it was included in the list of constellations created by Ptolemy, it was not rediscovered by European explorers until the late 15th Century.
The disappearance of Crux is linked by some to the crucifixion of Christ.
The constellation Crux has been a major feature in many cultures. In Machu Picchu, Peru the Southern Cross was carved into stone. The Incas called it “The Stair”, and the Maori called it “The Anchor”.