Universe

Southern sky. Observing the Universe

Southern sky. Observing the Universe

Here we see a celestial chart of the southern sky, with the three crosses that characterize it.

The southern sky has no bright stars that coincide with the south celestial pole. To locate it, we turn to indicator stars. The Southern Cross always points to the celestial south. We draw an imaginary straight line from the Cross, and another from the union between Alpha and Beta Centauri. The point where both lines intersect is the south celestial pole.

The Southern Cross is the most famous constellation in the southern hemisphere. Together with Carina and the False Cross, it forms the three crosses that characterize the southern sky. It is the smallest and brightest cross. It rises on the horizon since late winter. On one side, a dark area further highlights its brightness. It is the Dark Coal Sack Nebula, which hides the stars behind.

Two spots of light in the sky are the Little and the Large Magellanic Cloud. They are two satellite galaxies of the Milky Way, attracted and deformed by their gravity. The Great Magellanic Cloud is the closest galaxy to ours. In it, the Tarantula Nebula can be seen with the naked eye. In the Little Cloud, the globular cluster of Tucanae is one of the furthest objects we can see with the naked eye.

Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, also belongs to the southern sky. It is 4.22 light years, but is only visible with a telescope.

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