Shadow of the Cross

September 24, 2014

Crux-Coalsack Neb.-IMG_1872A

Photographer: Rick Stankiewicz
Summary AuthorRick Stankiewicz

For people living in the Southern Hemisphere the Southern Cross is a familiar sight. It's formed by the four brightest stars in the constellation of Crux (The Cross) -- the Southern Cross is an asterism of Crux. Somewhat less familiar, though, is a dark patch of the night sky adjacent to the Cross, which can be seen readily in skies with minimal light pollution. This large hole in the Milky Way is actually a dark nebula normally referred to as the Coalsack; a cloud of light absorbing dust and gas at a distance of about 600 light years (ly), having a radius of about 30 X 35 ly. Because of its apparent proximity and orientation to the Southern Cross, it's sometimes aptly referred to as the Shadow of the Cross. While it's not physically connected to the stars of the Southern Cross in any way, this chance alignment is definitely noteworthy and an interesting coincidence.

This cropped image was taken on May 26, 2014 at 9:50 p.m. (local time) while visiting the private Indaba Observatory, of East Lismore, New South Wales, Australia.

Photo details: Modified Canon EOS 50D; 50mm lens; ISO 2000; 60 second exposure; positioned on a tripod with an iOpteron Skytracker mount.