Southern Cross

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Starry sky containing the Southern Cross during my journey in 1997
Star map showing the Southern Cross and surrounding stars and constellations.
Schematic view of the Precession of the spinning Earth.
The Southern Cross from the International Space Station

The Southern Cross is a constellation that can only be watched from the southern hemisphere. It can be found in the Milky Way near the Coalsack Nebula. In extension to the south it points onto the South Celestial Pole

For me as an European the southern hemisphere is of special interest. The kind of names are totally different from those of the northern hemisphere. A lot of name of the constellations in the northern sky are from the Greek Mythology. In the "modern times" of european mariners there was no space left for myths like Hercules. Time and navigation were very important facts. Because of this a lot of practical constellations were founded like Pyxis, Puppis oder Carina.

Visibility from the Northern Hemisphere?

The Southern Cross is a special constellation because it is part of a bigger constellation called Centaurus. Today you cannot see it in northern parts of the northern hemisphere. But the Greeks in the classical antiquity could watch it. This is in case of the spinnig of the axis of the Earth called Precession. This precession needs about 26000 years for one turn. This is the reason for the changed view of point watching the sky at night. The Greeks could not only see the nothern parts of the Centaurus. They could see the full parts of the Southern Cross. It was near the horizon but ist was viewable. In the Late Classic Period Ptolemy notes the Centaurus constellation. In the Greek Mythology Chiron was transformed into the constellation Centaurus by Zeus.

The possibility of the full view of the southern parts of the Centaurus constellation in Classical antiquity in Greece is confirmed in at least to sources: The german speaking Wikipedia (Text only available in German!) tells about a full view of the Centaurus in the Mediterranean area in the 4th century B.C..

A verification using the computer programm Cartes du Ciel confirmed the full view in Crete in Classical antiquity:

Indigenous People

Oodgeroo (1920-1993, Clan of the Noonuccal) tells a dreamtime story that the Southern Cross is a creation of the allfather Biame (Text only available in German!).

Open bible 01 01.svg  Quote - Dieter Tischendorf, 2007 (Translation in English)
    History of creation? (Text only available in German!)

[...] The intention of Biame for the man and the animals he loved was blasted. Roland Robinson wrote in his story about the legends of the Kamilroi clan in his book "Wandjina": "The Quercus palustris sigh every time, the rubber trees got tears of blood that became red gum. Since this day the place of the Southern Cross is called the "Yaraandoo" as the place for the white rubber tree". And at the pointer the indigenous people see the white Cockatoos the "Mouyi". [...]

Open bible 01 01.svg  Quote - Dieter Tischendorf, 2007 (Original in German)
    Die Schöpfungsgeschichte? (Text only available in German!)

[...] Die eigentliche Absicht Baiames für die Männer und die Tiere, die er liebte, war so vereitelt worden. „Die Sumpfeiche haben unablässig geseufzt, die Gummibäume vergossen Tränen von Blut, das zu rotem Gummi kristallisierte“ schrieb Roland Robinson in der Erzählung dieser Legende des Kamilroi Stammes in seinem Buch „Wandjina“. „Seit diesem Tag“, führt weiter aus, „wird bei den Stämmen dieses Gebietes das Kreuz des Südens nur noch „Yaraandoo“, der Platz des weißen Gummibaums, genannt. Und in den Pointer (das sind die beiden hinten stehenden Sterne im Sternbild großer Bär, die auf den Polarstern weisen) sehen die Ureinwohner die weißen Cockatoos, die „Mouyi“. [...]

See also

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