Spring Constellations

We live on a planet that is constantly moving, which affects what we see in the sky. As the Earth rotates on its axis, we experience day and night. As the Earth orbits around the Sun, we experience the seasons. For each season we see different constellations in the night sky. For example, the constellation of Scorpius is best seen during winter, while the constellation of Orion is visible on summer evenings. The Southern Cross is a good constellation to watch throughout the entire year because it never disappears below the horizon. It can always be seen circling around the South Celestial Pole.

The information below is for around 8pm (AEST) during September.

Southern Cross constellation

The Southern Cross in Spring
Copyright: Museum Victoria.

In the night sky

The constellation of Crux (the Southern Cross) is found lying on its side in the south-west, with the Two Pointers, Alpha and Beta Centauri, directly above. The brightest of the pointers, Alpha Centauri, is the closest star to the Sun at 43 000 000 000 000 km.

The bright band of stars called the Milky Way, arches across the sky from north-east to south-west.

Capricornus, the sea-goat, and Aquarius, the water carrier, are two constellations overhead at this time.

Pisces, the fish, and Cetus, the whale, are low in the east. Cetus has a star that periodically changes its brightness, called Mira. The star Formalhaut (in Pisces Austrinus, the southern fish) is also in the eastern sky.

The star Achernar can be found low in the south-east. It marks the end of the river Eridanus. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are two fuzzy cloud like galaxies that can be found near Achernar.

The stars Altair and Vega are two bright stars in the northern sky.

With 7 x 50 binoculars:

High in the south-east, in the constellation of Tucana, is a cluster of stars called 47 Tucanae. This is a very old group of stars.

With a telescope:

We can see a tiny cluster of stars, called the Jewel Box, near the Southern Cross. An awesome sight is the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, at a distance of nearly 180,000 light years.

In larger telescopes, we can find the Helix Nebula in Aquarius and the Veil Nebula in Cygnus.

Comments (7)

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Tracy 17 August, 2009 11:06
Thank you for the information. Is it possible to add in what planet we can see in different seasons? that would be great!
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Discovery Centre 17 August, 2009 14:11

We're glad you found this infosheet helpful! A really good resource for finding out which planets are visible during any given month, or what other astronomical events are happening, is the Planetarium's Skynotes. These can be found at the following website: http://museumvictoria.com.au/planetarium/discoverycentre/skynotes/

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John Wilkie 24 August, 2009 14:48
Excellent site, I particularly like you idea with the sky maps. Showing north and south instead of just a circle make them so much easier to follow
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Ella 21 September, 2009 12:16
Thanks for the infomation. Is it possible to add a map of the constellations for that particular day? My teacher would love a map!
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Discovery Centre 22 September, 2009 10:11

Glad you like the information about the night sky in spring! Monthly positions of constellations for south-eastern Australia can be found on the Sky Maps page at Museum Victoria's Planetarium website. As for producing a daily map we will check with our astronomers and see if this is possible.

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Pippi 21 August, 2010 11:23
You should make a map that tells you whats in the sky each night
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Discovery Centre 24 August, 2010 14:48

Hi Pippi, we do have lots of online resources for exploring the night sky: Sky Maps for south-eastern Australia for each month; constellation maps for Summer, Winter, Autumn & Spring; and Skynotes, produced monthly, which gives heaps of information about what to see in the night sky.

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