The Crux, as Astronomers call it, is the smallest constellation in the sky, and although only five stars are visible with the naked eye it actually has many, many more. With your binoculars on hand, the Southern Cross will show you the way to the darkest and most beautiful spot in the universe. With the naked eye you should see a small star near Mimosa, the bright star that forms the left-hand point of Crux, but through binoculars you’ll see the star is actually a bright open cluster of sparkling blue and red stars, called the Jewel Box. The cluster is about 10 million years old, and 8,800 light-years away.
Did You Know Crux used to be visible in the Northern Hemisphere. In ancient Greece it formed the hind legs of the constellation Centaurus, but it hasn’t been seen in Athens for over a thousand years. The position of Crux in the sky hasn’t changed, but the Earth’s axis has! Imagine the Earth spinning on its axis like a spinning top – as the top spins the axis rotates. This rotation is called precession. The Earth’s axis precesses once every 26,000 years, which changes the area of the night sky we can see. In a few thousand years, precession will shift the South Celestial Pole, so Crux will no longer point south. Precession also means our seasons will shift through the calendar, so in 13,000 years our summer will be in June and we can finally have a white Christmas!
Article and research by Genevieve Blignaut Clarens News