Crux, the four-star Southern Cross, toward the upper right, lies southwest of Centaurus, and precedes the two bright stars of the Centaur across the southern sky. The smallest constellation in the sky, it just beats Equuleus (the smallest ancient constellation) for the record. Rigel Kentaurus, Alpha Centauri, the closest star to the Earth, lies at center left. Beta Centauri, Hadar, falls between Alpha and the Cross. Epsilon Centauri, off the picture toward upper left, links this photo to one of northern Centaurus. The stars near the far right edge also belong to Centaurus. Acrux, Crux's brightest star, is at the bottom (the southern end) of the Cross, Mimosa (Beta Crucis) is on the left side, Gacrux (Gamma Crucis) is on top, and Delta Crucis is on the right. Mu Cru is the brighter star up and a bit to to the left of Mimosa, while Epsilon is tucked into the lower right quadrant of the Cross between Delta and Acrux. The two bright stars down and to the right of Acrux are Zeta and Eta Cru. Lambda Cen, near the right edge, is the second star to the right of Eta Cru. V766 Cen is the reddish star in the trio down and to the right of Hadar.

Alpha Circini (of Circinus) lies at lower left, while the stars of northern Musca fall below Crux.

Crux and southern Centaurus fall within a brilliant, and the most southern, portion of the Milky Way. The picture features the famed "Coalsack," a large complex of dark interstellar molecule-rich dust clouds (in which stars are forming that lies below Mimosa. Just below center is a large reddish cloud of interstellar hydrogen called Ced 122 that is illuminated by nearby and embedded stars. The compact open cluster Kappa Crucis (the "Jewel Box") looks like a star down and to the left of Mimosa. A fainter cluster, NGC 5299, is about a quarter of the way between Alpha and Beta Cen. The deep red star just to the left of center is V 766 Cen, a luminous supergiant (possible hypergiant) whose light is heavily absorbed and reddened by interstellar dust.

To see a labelled image, push the star:

See full resolution.

See the connection to Epsilon Cen.

See the view from Crux through Carina to Vela.

By Jim Kaler. Return to STARS.