The Southern Cross
The five main stars of the Southern Cross belong to a larger group officially known as the constellation Crux. Crux is the smallest constellation in the sky and yet is the most famous group of southern stars. It is a kite-shaped cluster of four bright stars (and one not so bright) all within 16 degrees of each other in the sky. In the course of 24 hours the Cross appears to make a complete circuit in the heavens around a point known as the South Celestial Pole. The mid-point of the line extending from the long axis of the Cross to the bright star Achernar is the directly south.
The Southern Cross appears in various forms on the national flags of four countries: New Zealand, Western Samoa, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. Confirmation that the Cross has been found is the presence of two bright stars called the Pointers: Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri.
Two cloud-like patches of light are the neighbouring galaxies known as the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Small Magellanic Cloud. They are about 170,000 light years away and the Large Magellanic Cloud contains about 10,000 million stars. These are the closest galaxies to our own and are a stunning sight whether viewed with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. They are considered to be satellite galaxies linked by gravity to the Milky Way.