Magnificent Southern Skies

| BCP | Northern Circumpolar Constellations | Zodiac: Circle of the Animals |

The southern skies are filled with brightest stars in constellations of unequalled brilliance. Many of these stars, and the phenomena associated with southern skies, are of great general significance and consequently should be familiar to dwellers of the northern hemisphere.

Diurnal Motion in the...

  1. Northern Hemisphere
  2. Equatorial latitudes, i.e., at Sphaera Recta
  3. Southern Hemisphere

Southern Constellations

If from 35 degrees south latitude we face south and look at the constellations surrounding the south celestial pole, some of the brightest stars in the sky will enter our view. Discounting bright stars near the equator, which are visible from both northern and southern hemispheres, proportionately many more bright stars are found in the southern circumpolar region than in the northern.

Begin with Crux, which introduces some unexpected aspects of southern circumpolar motion, and then survey the following important southern constellations.

  1. Crux, the Southern Cross
  2. Centaurus, the Centaur
  3. Argo Navis, the ship of Jason and the Argonauts
  4. Carina, the keel of the ship
  5. Eridanus, the River
  6. Pavo, the Peacock
  7. Dorado, the Swordfish, and the Large Magellenic Cloud

The south celestial pole actually lies within the constellation Octans the Octant, which is devoid of bright stars. The nearest easy-to-spot star to the south pole is Beta-Hydri in Hydrus the Little Snake. No brighter star than Achernar (alpha-Eridani) is closer to the south celestial pole, which lies midway between Achernar and Crux.

Can you identify the constellation depicted on the following flags? The constellation pages listed above will help you!


New Zealand

Papua New Guinea


Christmas Island