Tiny Crux carves out a thin sliver of space within the plane of the Milky Way.
All constellations are in some sense artificial, but while many, especially
in the northern sky, date back thousands of years and have rich histories, the elegant
Southern Cross has a disappointingly prosaic derivation. In the late seventeenth century,
Royer (or, according to some sources, Abbé de la Caille) simply carved a rectangular
region of sky out of Centaurus and renamed it Crux (Latin for 'Cross').
Crux is often called the Southern Cross (Crux Australis) to distinguish it from the 'Northern Cross', a
traditional, but entirely unofficial, name for the brightstars that make up the main structure of Cygnus in the
With an area of less than seventy square degrees, Crux has the distinction of being
the smallest constellation in the sky. It occupies only about one twentieth of the area of
Hydra, the largest of the constellations.