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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sky Tonight—December 26, Northern Cross stands upright on winter evenings

Courtesy of EarthSky
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The Northern Cross is not as famous as its counterpart – the Southern Cross – visible from the southern hemisphere.

Nevertheless, the Northern Cross also looks like a cross. It is a large, noticeable star pattern. The star Deneb marks the top of the Northern Cross, and the star Albireo marks the bottom. Tonight you can find the Northern Cross low in the north-northwest at mid evening.

The Northern Cross is what is known as an asterism. In other words, it is not a constellation, but simply a noticeable pattern of stars. It is part of the constellation Cygnus the Swan.

As an added bonus, if you have a pair of binoculars, break them out this evening and point them toward the Northern Cross, and its larger constellation Cygnus the Swan. In this direction, you will find a part of our Milky Way galaxy that is called the Cygnus Star Cloud. It is part of the spiral arm of our galaxy that also contains our sun, and you should be able to pick out stars from it if it is a clear night in your area.

By the way, we get many questions from people in northern latitudes about if and when they can view the Southern Cross in their portion of the sky. The truth is that unless you live close to the tropics (Hawaii, or the southernmost parts of Texas or Florida for those of us in the U.S.), you will not be able to view the Southern Cross, also known as the constellation Crux. To find out how to locate Crux in Hawaii right now, look here.

Written by Deborah Byrd

Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA/JPL

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U.S. Naval Observator Astronomical Information center

Universe Today

StarDate Online

Sky and Telescope

National Geographic

Space Com

Simostronomy Blog

Amazing Space

The York County Astronomical Society

Scope City

James S McDonnell Planetarium

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