The Crux reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Crux

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Crux
Image:Crux_constellation_map.png
AbbreviationCru
GenitiveCrucis
Meaning in EnglishCross
Right ascension12 h
Declination−60°
Visible to latitudeBetween 20° and −90°
Evening visibilityMay
Area
 - Total
Ranked 88th
68 sq. deg.
Number of stars with
apparent magnitude <  3
4
Brightest star
 - Apparent magnitude
Mimosa (β Cru)
1.25
Meteor showers Crucids
Bordering constellations

Crux, the cross, commonly known as the Southern Cross (in contrast to the Northern Cross), is the smallest of the 88 modern constellations, but also one of the most famous. It is surrounded on three sides by the constellation Centaurus while to the south lies the Fly (Musca).

Table of contents
1 Notable features
2 Notable deep sky objects
3 History

Notable features

With the lack of a significant pole star in the southern sky (σ Octantis is closest to the pole, but is so faint as to be useless for the purpose), two of the stars of Crux (Alpha and Gamma, Acrux and Gacrux respectively) are commonly used to mark south. Following the line defined by the two stars for approximately 4.5 times the distance between them leads to a point close to the Southern Celestial Pole.

Alternatively, if a line is constructed perpendicularly between α Centauri (Toliman) and β Centauri, the point where the above line and this line intersect marks the Southern Celestial Pole.

Notable deep sky objects

The Coalsack Nebula is the most prominent dark nebula in the skies, well visible to the naked eye as big dark patch in the southern Milky Way.

Another deep sky object within Crux is the open cluster NGC 4755. Better known as Jewel Box or Kappa Crucis Cluster, it was discovered by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1751-1752. It lies at a distance of about 7,500 light years and consists of approximately 100 stars spread across an area of about 20 ly.

History

Due to precession of the equinox the stars comprising Crux were visible from the Mediterranean area in antiquity, so their stars had to be known by Greek astronomers. However, it was not regarded as a constellation of its own, but rather as a part of Centaurus.

The invention of Crux as a separate constellation is generally attributed to the French astronomer Augustin Royer in 1679. It was known in that shape well before that, however.

The five brightest stars of Crux (α, β, γ, δ and ε Crucis) appear on the flags of Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Samoa, except that the New Zealand flag omits Epsilon.