How to find South with the Southern Cross

Thinking back to when I made the leap from day walks to overnight walks, I remember being struck (not literally!) by the night sky. The sheer immensity of light and beauty, that danced above my head throughout the night, was one of those awe inspiring moments that even today, 15 years later,  constantly surprises me when I get up for my 2am pee.

I reckon the first constellation that all Aussie kids learn when growing up is the Southern Cross. It’s part of our culture and identity as Australians with it being a large part (the bit that doesn’t reference England!) of our flag and forms part of our national anthem.

“…Beneath our radiant Southern Cross  – We’ll toil with hearts and hands…”

It symbolised a turning point in our democratic rule when 500 men swore an oath to the Southern Cross flag at the Eureka Stockade in 1854, leading an armed rebellion against unfair laws, resulting in 27 deaths.

How to find south with the southern cross
Settling in for the night under southern skies (Huayhuash Circuit – Peru).

But the other awesome thing about the Southern Cross (or “Crux” as it is known in astronomy circles) is that just like seafarers of old, we can use it to navigate to south.

Here’s how to find south with the Southern Cross:

  1. Watch my video on how to find south with the Southern Cross!
  2. Identify the Southern Cross and the Two Pointers (part of Centaurus), careful to avoid the ‘false cross’.
  3. Draw an imaginery line down along the longest angle of the cross all the way to the ground.
  4. Find the midpoint between the Two Pointers.
  5. Draw a line from this midpoint at an angle all the way down to the ground
  6. Where the two lines intersect, draw a new line straight down to the horizon… voila! That is south.
How to find south with the southern cross
Don’t mistake the False Cross for the real one! (Source: land-navigation.com)
How to find south with the southern cross
Star Gazing and Light Painting : Two great night time activities when camping.
Bushwalking & Hiking Tips from an Unexpected Outdoors Chick

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