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Southern Hemisphere Constellations Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

If you were a sailor hundreds of years ago, you'd have used the stars to help you find your way. In this lesson, you'll find out about some of the constellations in the Southern Hemisphere that helped guided explorers on their adventures.

Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere

Did you know that the stars seen in the Northern Hemisphere aren't the same as the ones seen in the Southern Hemisphere? While some stars can be seen both north and south of the Equator, there are some stars that are seen only in the Southern Hemisphere.

Just as in the Northern Hemisphere, the southern night sky is divided into constellations. There are 88 constellations in all; 32 of them are found in the Southern Hemisphere. The northern constellations were mostly named by the Greeks over 2,000 years ago, but they couldn't see the southern constellations since they lived in the northern hemisphere.

The southern constellations were only named a little over 500 years ago by Europeans who explored the southern hemisphere on ships, such as Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci.

Let's explore some of the most interesting and well-known of the southern constellations.

Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere
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The Lacaille Group

One famous group of 13 southern constellations is called the Lacaille Group, named after astronomer Louis Lacaille, who named them. While the Greeks named most of the northern constellations after creatures in their myths, Lacaille named 12 of the constellations after scientific instruments!

These are called Norma (the Level), Circinus (the Compass), Telescopium (the Telescope), Sculptor, Fornax (the Furnace), Caelum (the Chisel), Horologium (the Clock), Octans (the Octant), Reticulum (the Net), Pictor (the Easel), Pyxis (the Ship's Compass), and Antila (the Air Pump). He named the final constellation Mensa, which means 'Table Mountain,' because that was the location of his observatory, where he looked at the stars.

The Southern Cross

The constellation Crux, also called the Southern Cross, is one of the most well-known southern constellations. When Europeans were first exploring the world, they used the stars to help them find their way. They relied mostly on the Northern Star, or Polaris, to help them. When these explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they realized that Polaris wasn't visible to them! They had to find another constellation or star they could use to keep them from getting lost.

Southern Cross
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