Thursday 5 May 2022

The stars in the Southern Hemisphere

Back in 2007 my husband and I travelled around Australia as part of an amazing honeymoon. It was our first visit to the Southern Hemisphere, and I thought that the only difference was that the seasons were reversed. We did notice that our view of the stars was amazing and quite different to the view that we had from home, but because I wasn't so knowledgeable about astronomy back then I thought that it was because we were visiting areas with low light pollution and so we could see more stars.

It's only more recently that I've learned more about how the sky looks different from the Southern Hemisphere. Although the lower levels of light pollution do make for a better view, from this part of the world there are more stars to see, including a much clearer view of the Milky Way as it sweeps across the sky.

We have recently returned from a week in Mauritius, and this time I was more prepared to make the most of any stargazing opportunities. It's a little disorientating at first when you look up to the sky. Even if you aren't that familiar with the stars at home I think that you still have a vague idea of where they are, and to look up and see a different sky can feel a little strange!

One of the most famous constellations that is only visible in the Southern Hemisphere, or sometimes in very southern parts of the Northern Hemisphere, is the Southern Cross, or Crux.

Southern Cross constellation with palm trees

The Southern Cross constellation is quite a small constellation, and it's the constellation represented by the stars on the Australian flag. I managed to capture it in this photo above, although the fifth star is quite faint. Tilt your head slightly to the left and it's just to the right of the centre.

Another difference in the Southern Hemisphere is that the view of the moon appears upside down from what we are used to in the Northern Hemisphere. There's a really good explanation of why here - Does the moon look upside down in the Southern Hemisphere? I would have loved to have seen this, however unfortunately during our stay there was a new moon which didn't rise until much later in the night, and we never actually saw it! 

We looked out for the Southern Cross every night of our holiday, and this photo was taken on our last night as we said goodbye to it. I would love to see it again soon!

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