The Northern Cross AsterismJul 08, 2023
The Northern Cross asterism is a prominent pattern in the summer sky. The stars in the Northern Cross Asterism are a part of the constellation known as Cygnus the Swan.
What is an Asterism
Asterisms are not true constellations, but rather simple star patterns that can be used as guides. They can either be part of a constellation or a collection of constellations. They can be simple shapes, like the Summer Triangle that make up bright stars of three different constellations, or they can be much larger.
Finding The Northern Cross Asterism
When identifying the Northern Cross asterism, the constellation Cygnus the swan should be identified as well because the Northern Cross lies within Cygnus. The Summer Triangle can be used to help find the Northern Cross. Deneb, a bright star within the Summer Triangle Asterism, is also shared with Cygnus the Swan. Deneb is located at the tail of the swan, and at the top of the Northern Cross shape.
An excellent resource for recognizing patterns in the night sky is the online planetarium called Stellarium. You can use the search bar within the program to locate Cygnus the Swan, and within the Northern Cross asterism can be found. There are many different tools that can be used in order to practice identifying stars in different conditions in the night sky. Using the tools the horizon can be turned on and off, the atmosphere can be turned on and off, deep sky objects can be toggled, as well as the equatorial grid. This is a great way to give yourself some practice with identifying different star patterns and challenge yourself.
Other Crosses in the Night Sky
The Northern Cross Asterism is not the only cross that can be found in the night sky. In the Southern Hemisphere the Southern Cross asterism, the Crux constellation, the Diamond Cross asterism, and the False Cross asterism. The Crux, the Diamond Cross, and the False Cross are located very close together in the sky. If you don’t have access to the southern sky a great resource to practice finding these crosses is the online program Stellarium.
The Northern Cross is best seen in June, July, and August, which are the summer months for the Northern Hemisphere and winter for the Southern Hemisphere, but ultimately, your latitude will determine how long you can really see the Northern Cross. The best way to find it is to look for the giant Cross within the Summer Triangle asterism.
- Stellarium Online Planetarium: https://stellarium-web.org/