Look after our night sky
How to find the Southern Cross
The Southern Cross is our iconic asterism — group of stars. We find it on our flag, on other countries flags, on logos, t-shirts — just to count a few places, and in the night sky.
From New Zealand, the Southern Cross is circumpolar, this means it will always be in the sky at dusk. Circumpolar means that it rotates around the pole, in a circle. All the stars in the southern circumpolar region rotate clockwise.
The Circumpolar Region
Imagine a big clock in the sky that stretches from the horizon to about 80 degrees above the horizon. The purple circle in the picture below marks the imaginary clock’s face. The Southern Cross will seem to rotate within that part of the sky just like the small hand of a clock. Southern Cross does a complete turn in 23 hours and 56 minutes (so not in 24 hours).
Zenith is the point above our head.
The South Celestial Pole (SCP) is the imaginary extension of the South Pole in the sky. You can find it in the sky at the same height, measured in degrees, as the latitude of the observer. For instance, the height of the South Celestial Pole from Wellington will be 41 degrees, the same as the latitude of Wellington. At the South Pole, the SCP will be directly overhead, at Zenith or 90 degrees.