02 / Southern Cross

The Southern Cross is the smallest, yet one of the most distinctive, constellations. Its pattern is dominated by a cross-shaped cluster. From the southern hemisphere the Cross is easily visible all year round. Since the southern sky lacks an easily visible pole star, the two stars of Alpha and Beta Centauri are often referred to as the ‘Pointers’, allowing easy location of the Southern Cross. European navigators sailing into southern seas in the 16th century perceived it as a symbol of their Christian faith. The constellation remains evocative of place and origin to New Zealanders and is relevant to nationhood and national honour. As an official symbol, the main lights of the constellation are represented by four five-pointed red stars on the country’s national flag. It is also depicted on the New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, unveiled in 2004 – the stars represented on the tomb lid guide the warrior home from distant battlefields.

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