The Southern Cross is a star constellation that is only visible from the deep southern sky throughout the year. It is also known as the Crux, which is a Latin word for cross. The constellation is made up of four bright stars arranged in a crucifix and a smaller fifth star at the bottom right. The Southern Cross is portrayed in the flag of some countries in the Southern Hemisphere to represent their geographical position.
Flags That Feature the Southern Cross
The flag of Australia features the Union Jack and Southern Cross on a blue background. The larger seven-pointed star (Commonwealth Star) below the Union Jack represents the states and territories of the country. The flag of Australia resembles but is not identical to the flag of New Zealand. In 2018 the acting Prime minister of New Zealand urged Australia to get a new design for its flag. Australia adopted the flag in 1954.
The flag of Brazil depicts a starry sky on a circular blue background. At first glance, one cannot tell that the flag features the Southern Cross since it is reversed, unlike other flags. There are 27 stars in the Brazilian flag, each representing a federative unit. The initial flag adopted in 1889 had 21 stars, one more was added in 1960 to represent the state of Guanabara and another in 1968 to represent Acre. A further four stars were added in 1992.
The flag of New Zealand resembles the flag of Australia but without the Commonwealth Star and the smaller five-pointed star of the Southern Cross. The Crux in the flag of New Zealand, therefore, has four stars instead of five. The state has been seeking to change the flag, and in 2016 it narrowed down the choices to four designs, but a referendum opted to keep at the current model.
Papua New Guinea
The flag of Papua New Guinea depicts the Crux in the hoist and a Raggiana bird-of-paradise in the fly. The design was adopted in 1971 through a nationwide competition. Black and red have been the traditional colors of the tribes of the country, while the Raggiana bird is a native species. Other flags with the Southern Cross are those of Samoa and Tokelau.
The Southern Cross
For an unknown reason, the Southern Cross has come to represent the Southern Hemisphere. European explorer Amerigo Vespucci documented the stars while on his third voyage to the Southern Hemisphere in 1501. The Crux was visible in the United States, Babylonia, and Greece 5000 years ago, but it began moving southwards due to the oscillating motion of the Earth axis. The constellation was visible on the horizon of Jerusalem during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.A pear-shaped, inky spot southeast of the cross resembles a black hole and was thought to be a door into deep space, but it is a cloud of dust and gas that absorbs light from the stars beyond.
The Southern Cross is visible in the Southern Hemisphere throughout the year. It is also visible at the horizon of the tropical latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere during the northern spring and winter. It will continue to move south towards the South Pole due to precession, and in 18000 AD It will become visible in the Northern Hemisphere across Northern Europe.