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Chasing the Southern Cross

By: Juan Carlos Casado

 

Region: Europe

Site: Tenerife - Spain

Date: May 2011

Southern Cross Time Lapse from Spain - Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands from STARRYEARTH on Vimeo.

Have you ever seen the Southern Cross (constellation Crux) from 28 degrees north? This is perhaps a northern most record to capture the complete view of this small but notable southern constellation. This time-lapse video shows stars moving over the southern horizon of Tenerife, Canary Islands. The video is made of a sequence of many short-exposure images (See this sequence in a startrail image. As added by the photographer "The video is the result of nearly two hours of continuous shots. To my knowledge this is the first ever imagery of full Southern Cross, including the lower star Acrux from this northern latitude. I was at Teide National Park at altitude of 2300 meters, probably the place with darkest and most transparent sky on the island. The atmospheric physics contained in this view is interesting too. Theoretically the star Acrux (alpha Crux at declination -63 10') never appears over the horizon of this place. However, due to atmospheric refraction and the high altitude, the star is visible only for a few minutes in mid-May in early evening. The color of the star appears deep red while it's really a blue star, because its seen through the horizon and its light travels a longer distance in the Earth atmosphere to reach the viewer, causing its shorter wavelength to absorbed in our atmosphere (similar to orange-red view of the sun at sunset or sunrise). While I imaged Crux at the very limit of its northern visibility it is interesting that the constellation was visible about 2000 years ago in Mediterranean regions due to the precession of the equinoxes. This seems to be the scientific origin for festivities of May Cross ("Cruz de Mayo" in Spanish), celebrated all over Spain. Crux is the smallest constellation in the sky and one of the most famous, because it's used to locate the south celestial pole. Beginning in the colonial age, Crux was selected as a national symbol by several southern nations. The brightest stars of Crux appear on the flags of Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Samoa." Juan Carlos Casado/Starryearth.com

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