Crux Constellation: Facts & Myths

When it comes to one of the brightest constellations in the Milky Way, the name of Crux tops the list. You certainly can identify it in the Milky Way galaxy by looking right at the sky with naked eyes. There are four main stars in the constellation which make it quite distinguished in the sky. No wonder, the name has a rationale behind it, and once we delve deeper into the constellation with the telescope of our knowledge, you will be simply mesmerized with all the wonders that this network of stars holds for you. Let’s explore it even further.

The constellation

This is one of the modern 88 known constellations in the sky. You will be elated to know that this is the smallest constellation known to us to date. The four stars of this constellation have a visual magnitude of +2.8. The name means a cross, and thus, Crux is a cross-shaped constellation or also seen as an asterism shaped like a kite. This is why it is also called Southern Cross. The stars are a part of the Scorpius-Centaurus constellation and can be found to beautify the night sky like no other constellation in the huge assortment of stars.

The stars

A look at the Crux constellation will show the brightest star to be Acrux, also called Alpha Crucis. This is the southern-most star in the network and is then followed by other stars, named Beta, Gamma, Delta and finally, Epsilon Crucis. Since these are a part of the Scorpius-Centaurus constellation, the stars show a similar motion as well as origin as that of the other hot blue-white stars in the constellation of Scorpius-Centaurus. There are 4 Cepheid variables, and these are visible only during the optimum conditions with naked eyes. The open cluster, Jewel Box, is also a part of this constellation. And that’s not all! The dark nebula, named Coalsack nebula, is also a part of this amazing constellation.

The mythology

The constellation of Crux has a huge role to play in the Greek mythology. Ptolemy had studied this constellation and placed it in the Centaurus constellation. During the 4th millennium BC, these stars used to be visible towards the north as far as in Britain too. But the precession of Equinox in the following millenniums led the stars to be gradually pushed down below European horizon. Soon, the northern inhabitants forgot these stars, and by the advent of 400 AD, the stars of Crux never rose above the Athenian horizon. Alvise Cadamasto, a Venetian navigator, is credited with making a note of these stars while exiting the Gambia river.

The characteristics

It is well known that Crux is surrounded by Musca on south and Centaurus on all other directions. A total area of 68 square degrees is covered by the constellation, and its abbreviation by International Astronomical Union is Cru, as given in 1992. If you live in tropical areas, you can find this constellation adorning the night sky exactly opposite of Cassiopeia.

Grab your telescope and check out this astronomical wonder quickly.