It’s My ______ In A Box!

“I would rather be adorned by beauty of character than jewels. Jewels are the gift of fortune, while character comes from within.” -Plautus

When it comes to astronomy, there’s no doubt that I’ve got a northern hemisphere bias. It’s no surprise, of course; I live here. And while I often write about the skies that we all share, astronomy has a historical bias in favor of the northern hemisphere. You know this, too. Ask most people to name one single thing in the night sky, and you’re most likely going to end up with this.

Big Dipper by Rich Richins

Image credit: Rich Richins of http://www.enchantedskies.net/.

The Big Dipper is arguably the most prominent, distinct grouping of stars in the night sky, and offers its own unique set of glorious sights for the astronomer. But below a certain latitude, the Big Dipper is invisible at all times of the year.

What’s more, a whole new set of stars, nebulae and more — invisible from the northern hemisphere — are visible from south of the equator. The most prominent grouping in the southern skies, arguably, looks like this instead.

Southern Cross

Image credit: Chris of http://www.shatters.net/.

The Southern Cross, also known as Crux, is directly opposite to Cassiopeia in the night sky; both are never simultaneously visible from anyplace on Earth. But this bright, compact constellation contains many of its own secrets. Today, I want to highlight just one of the sights I’ve never yet had the opportunity to chase with my own eyes.

Because the Southern Cross lies directly in the plane of the Milky Way, some of the fainter secrets are a little more difficult to tease out.

Southern Cross with Pointer Stars

Image credit: Yuri Beletsky / ESO.

Combined with the nearby pointer stars, alpha and beta centauri, the Southern Cross can be used to find the South Celestial Pole. Just draw an imaginary line down the long side of the cross and another perpendicular to the pointer stars; where they intersect, that’s true south.

Finding the South Celestial Pole

Image credit: Fraser Gunn; primitive annotations by me.

But that’s not the secret I want to share. Right next door to the cross, the black haze in the Milky Way is known as the Coalsack nebula. The nebula, in fact, forms the head of the most well-known dark mythological feature in the entire night sky: the Giant Emu-in-the-Sky.

Emu in the Sky (no diamonds)

Image credit: D. Smith, retrieved from Lesley Punton.

But it’s not the emu that I wanted to share with you, either. The left-most star in the cross — Beta Crucis — lies just above the Coalsack nebula in the plane of the Milky Way. But head on down, just a tiny bit, and you’ll see what looks like a star that’s just barely visible to the naked eye under ideal, dark skies.

But that’s not a star, and you’d see that if you brought a telescope or good binoculars with you.

Beta and Kappa Crucis

Image credit: Starfield Observatory at http://starfieldobservatory.com/sky.htm.

Kappa Crucis (or NGC 4755) is better known, today, as the Jewel Box cluster (sorry to those of you expecting something different from the title; it’s my jewels in a box), ever since the astronomer John Herschel viewed it through a substantial telescope, and described it as

“a casket of variously coloured precious stones.”

The European Southern Observatory, with a modest (2.2-meter) telescope, can clearly demonstrate why.

Jewel Box Cluster

Image credit: ESO's Wide-Field Imager.

The actual image is much higher resolution than I can display here, but I can easily crop out for you the most spectacular part of the cluster.

Core of NGC 4755.

Image credit: ESO.

Most of the stars are bright blue, telling us right off the bat that this is an incredibly young cluster of stars, full of very hot, short-lived stars that haven’t run out of fuel yet. Well, one of them has, of course, because that’s what explains the uniquely orange color of the extremely bright star in there: it’s a red supergiant!

And, as I told you earlier in the week, when it comes to resolution, the size of your telescope is everything. How much better can our view get if we jump up to the 8.2-meter VLT: ESO’s Very Large Telescope?

VLT image of the Jewel Box Cluster

Image credit: ESO / Y. Beletsky.

With an age of just 14 million years, the Jewel Box Cluster still contains a great many bright, massive B-stars, some of which will go supernova during the next few million years. The question on my mind, of course, is whether the supergiant, Kappa Crucis, will be the next one in our galaxy to do so?

I hope we’ll be around to find out, but with a star like this, it could happen next week or it could not happen for hundreds of thousands of years. But looking deep inside, as only Hubble can, we can see that behind the bright blue stars and the red supergiant lie the dim, faint stars, down to just 40% the mass of the Sun, vastly outnumbering the bright infants of this cluster.

A Hubble gem: the Jewel Box

Image credit: NASA/ESA and Jesús Maíz Apellániz (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain).

Four-and-a-half billion years ago, our Sun formed in a region not much different than this, and was not unlike one of the relatively dim, yellow stars you can barely see in the background. At just 0.3% the age of our Sun, this star cluster is in for some spectacular fireworks in the near future, and I can’t wait to see if we get one in our lifetimes.

Jewel Box Composite

Image credit: ESO, NASA/ESA, Digitized Sky Survey 2 and Jesús Maíz Apellániz.

Regardless of the tools you’ve got, this secret of the southern skies, masquerading as a single, dim star to the naked eye, is just waiting for you to unlock it. Enjoy the Jewel Box Cluster if you can, one of the least-known treasures of the night sky!

Comments

  1. #1 Crux Australis
    June 15, 2012

    This area is my favourite part of the sky. In fact, I had the pleasure of showing a school group this same cluster just a couple of weeks ago! Magic.

  2. #2 chelle
    June 16, 2012

    lol, great article and it reads just like a pirates treasure hunt …

  3. #3 Rolando
    usa
    June 16, 2012

    if this doesn’t make you believe in a higher power………..

  4. #4 Gethyn Jones
    uk
    June 17, 2012

    Love this blog!

    Thank you so much and keep sharing!

  5. #5 Shane
    Australia
    June 17, 2012

    “if this doesn’t make you believe in a higher power”

    You mean Gravity right???

  6. #6 Wow
    June 18, 2012

    Gravity is a power that LOWERS you, not makes you higher!

  7. #7 joe
    Florida
    June 18, 2012

    lol… and thats the same person that will tell you there is NO GOD when he dosent even know the laws of Physics. if there is no God, ask your self if we as such powerful humans that we are that build skycrapers and even small man made islands that even a child has the common sense of building his Legos, then how did the whole universe with its perfect state of expanding beyond human resoning, could build itself? just food for thought! and read Isaiah 40:21-23 for insight

  8. #8 ein vogel frei
    out there somewhere
    June 18, 2012

    makes me believe in a higher power of scope . . .

  9. #9 Gethyn Jones
    June 18, 2012

    Can’t have gravitational potential without gravity…

  10. #10 Wow
    June 19, 2012

    “then how did the whole universe with its perfect state of expanding beyond human resoning, could build itself?”

    How could all the trillions of water molecules in a puddle manage to organise themselves to so perfectly fit the complex shape of the hole that puddle resides in?!?! Does Isaiah answer that?

    Just food for thought, Joe.

  11. #11 joe
    June 19, 2012

    Actually Isaiah does answer that. You obviously did not read the scripture. And your question about water gives God credit. You also must not know how complex water is and yet how simple it is. But yet man has not been able to successfuly create water, well, the Hendinberg did, but not without exploding itself to bits and only creating a fraction of what is created naturaly in a single cloud. Please look it up. You see an empty house in the middle of a desert and first thing u ask is ” who built this out here?” and u dare say all the amazing things with intelligence and perfection which most things man cannot explain still, in the 21st century. Even in the far reaches of the universe, where man has taught to be nothing but empty space they have found tens of thousands of galaxies, but still to some these things have no creator. Thats like saying if all the adults in the world do not have sexual intercourse, a baby will still be born. This time please read Romans 1:20. Think with the brain GOD has given you.

  12. #12 Wow
    June 19, 2012

    “And your question about water gives God credit”

    Nope.

    The reason why those trillions of water molecules fit so well in the puddle, despite the complexity of the form they must follow is the result of electron repulsion causing solids to appear solids along with the weak short-range binding of liquids allowing the malleable deformation of an apparent “whole” and finally the effects of a gravitational field on the equilibrium of a malleable state situation.

    “But yet man has not been able to successfuly create water”

    Hydrocarbon + Oxygen = CO2 + H20.

    Every time you turn your car engine on, you’ve created water.

    “You see an empty house in the middle of a desert and first thing u ask is ” who built this out here?””

    And you say “God did!”?

    “all the amazing things with intelligence and perfection which most things man cannot explain still”

    Can you explain God, then?

    Because if you CAN’T, then any inability to explain “all the amazing things” is no proof of God either. Things can happen without us being able to explain them. Otherwise you cannot have God without being able to explain him.

    “but still to some these things have no creator”

    You too.

    Or did your God have a creator?

    “Think with the brain GOD has given you.”

    I have. And with that brain I have not found anything that needs a God and He doesn’t appear anywhere at all. Therefore, like the invisible underpant gnomes, I don’t believe they exist.

  13. #13 Wow
    June 19, 2012

    “And your question about water gives God credit”

    Or are you saying that God puts each molecule there? And that if you dig away at the edge of the puddle, God will move the water molecules around to fit?

  14. #14 joe
    June 19, 2012

    think about it as a computer program or even a game, there is what is called Artificial Intelligence, correct? so these A.I. are in place to challenge us as the user of the program or game to try and defeat us or aid us in which ever task it is we are trying to achieve no matter what they have to do to aid us or defeat us. But did these A.I. or progams created themselves or did somebody create them, and does the person that created them have to be there in order for them to work effectively? Again, is it inconceivable to think that water (which was created) was also given the ability (or program) to fill what ever object it is in even if the object changes in character or under extreme heat it evaporates or under freezing conditions it freezes? I dont beleive in God because my mommy told me too, i believe in God because of sheer fact and his word the bible has shown me that countless centuries ago it was written that the world was a circle and just a few days ago incomparision it was made clear that the earth was a circle, when all we had to do was read the bible. This an argument that neither of us can win cause its not us but God who can shed light on anything just read his word, read the Bible.

  15. #15 Wow
    June 19, 2012

    So we’re all in the Matrix???

    “Again, is it inconceivable to think that water (which was created) was also given the ability (or program) to fill what ever object it is ”

    Yes. Yes, it is inconceivable.

    “I dont beleive in God because my mommy told me too”

    Well, your daddy told you to as well, so to that extent you’re right. But isn’t it odd that you just HAPPENED to be born in the country whose religion “happens” to be “the right one”.

    “This an argument that neither of us can win cause its not us but God who can shed light on anything”

    Well, when He appears, let us know. Until then, zip it. Let Him speak, he doesn’t need you.

    Unless He doesn’t exist. But I guess that’s what you’re so scared of.

  16. #16 Sean Tremba
    June 19, 2012

    Joe,

    Creating water? Heck, that’s easy. I do it every day, and without any explosions (I work with chemically based breathing apparatus, BTW).

    LiOH + CO2 —-> Li2CO3 + H2O

    Not so tough to do it if you know your chemistry. You could also do it by synthesizing an ester from an alcohol and a carboxylic acid ie, RCOOH + R’OH —> RCOOR’ + H2O, or any number of other reactions.

  17. #17 Sean Tremba
    June 19, 2012

    joe,

    First of all, the earth is not a circle. It’s a sphere. So the Bible actually has that one wrong. Further, no educated person during the past 3 millenia has believed that the earth is anything other than a sphere. The ancient Greeks (I believe it was Erastothanes who I’m thinking of) actually were able to determine the circumference of the earth to a pretty high degree of accuracy, especially given the lack of advanced technology. They did it simply by virtue of the ability to measure one angle, one distance and a good knowledge of geometry. It has NOT been relatively recently that the spherical shape of the earth has been known. That’s a myth. Even the sailors who travelled with Columbus knew the earth was spherical. The objections to Columbus’ voyage were not based on a belief in the flatness of the earth, but rather in the belief that Columbus had underestimated the size of the earth. At least in that regard, Columbus’ detractors were right on the money.

  18. #18 CB
    June 19, 2012

    joe, speaking as a Christian, if your faith in God is based on needing Him to explain the physical world and how, for example, water fills a puddle then your faith is weak and bound to be weakened the more you learn about science. Creating an incentive to *not* learn science and thus avoid understanding the physical world.

    My faith in God is because I feel Him in my soul, not because I need Him to fill the holes in my knowledge of the physical world. The Bible was never intended to be a physics textbook, and using it as such is only a disservice to your faith as it pits the word of the Bible against the reality of the universe He created.

    Asking non-believers to entertain this cognitive dissonance is self-defeating because they aren’t predisposed to resolve the issue in favor of the Bible. They’re going to say that the Bible contradicts physical reality, there’s no need for a God to explain the parts of reality we do understand, and as the historical trend shows little reason to expect we will need Him to explain what we don’t understand.

    Which is true.

    Why does your faith depend on it not being true?

  19. #19 Pedro Schuler
    June 19, 2012

    The Jewel Box was the first Deep Sky object i ever saw with my little scope.

    When i first grabbed the telescope i went straight on to find those astonishing nebulae i had seen on the internet just to find that it was quite difficult to find them with an unaligned scope. So after unsuccessfully trying to find eta carinae i decided to start with the easiest one, the jewel’s box.

    So, in some sense, i feel kinda jealous when i hear about the jewel’s box.

  20. #20 Chelle
    June 20, 2012

    @CB

    “My faith in God is because I feel Him in my soul …”

    My faith is in the horny Devil because I feel him making my _____ grow when I get excited about my girl, so I can put in that _____ box of hers.

  21. #21 Wow
    June 20, 2012

    “Why does your faith depend on it not being true?”

    Because, as you said, he’s afraid it’s not.

    Which since he’s been told all along the only reason for existence is God, means he has no reason to live.

    He’s also afraid of death, despite having never had a problem with the billions of years he was not alive before he was born, this scares him, so he’s willing to go to any lengths to pretend he’s never going to die.

    PS Chelle’s reply ought, I think, to be taken as an illustration of why “I feel him in my heart” has no utility to explain god or to make someone else think you’re right.

    I.e. if someone said they felt Satan/Thor/Dr Manhattan/… in their heart, would YOU then go “Oh, OK, I guess I was wrong. I’ll convert right away!”.

  22. #22 CB
    June 20, 2012

    I’m not trying to convert anyone, so I expect and do not care that my statement of faith doesn’t convince you I’m right. I’m just explaining that my faith isn’t based on requiring God to explain the physical universe, and that the universe I believe God created is the same universe that science is discovering. That this universe is beyond amazing is something both the religious and non- should agree on. How sad for the religious person to then turn to the non-religious and say “So now you have to believe in God because how else do you explain this?”

  23. #23 Wow
    June 21, 2012

    And I wasn’t accusing you of it, nor, I suspect Chelle.

    I was suggesting that if you (or indeed any religious person) gets bent out of shape in some form because of the post they made, that looking at it that way will show that the post doesn’t have to mean “I mock you!”.

  24. #24 Wow
    June 21, 2012

    Guh. Overuse of the indefinite article.

    “because of the post Chelle made”.

  25. #25 joe
    June 21, 2012

    Look, the bible is certainly not a scientific textbook, i was not using it in that regard but it does not disprove actual science ( remember theory’s are what they are, theory’s, so we cant accept theory’s as facts). But the bible does point out some facts on the universe today. But im not going to point them out because the couple that i did, was to no avail. Im not scared im going to do die, cause i know we all can and could. Im not afraid of finding out God does not exist because i know he does, what im afraid of is not doing his will (Revelation 14:7). And ALL in the world will come to know who he is soon, that his word guarantees (Ezekiel 38:17, 23). If you read the Bible for yourself with an open mind then you will see what God wants you too see, not what you want to see. What made you not believe in God? And i find it quite sad if humans really know how to create water, why then are people world wide dying of thirst or because they are unable to find clean drinking water ( and we do have sophisticated water filtration systems)? And if its the reasoning because “people are greedy” or “becuase people are too poor to afford it”? then read Matthew 24:3 -14 and 2 Timothy 3:1 – 5. Im not trying to convert anybody, i wouldnt be preaching about God if that was my goal, my goal is to preach and to show you what the bible really says and with reasoning from the scriptures find out if these things are true thru his word, if you say no, then ill do like Jesus said and “shake the dust of your (my) feet” and move on to people who actually listen and care (Matthew 10:14, 15). And no, the reason why i live is becasue of God, if anything when i lived up to par with what people do in the world is when i wasnt living or are these people in Maury, Jerry Springer on the News and some in your neiborhood actually happy? I do wish for you the best. I hope you answer my question. And as for CB, true Christians would know how powerful the Bible is and that all of it is “inspired of God” and that it sets things straight. (2 Timothy 3:16,17)

  26. #26 Wow
    June 21, 2012

    No, the bible doesn’t disprove science. Neither does Harry Potter.

    What made you not believe in Thor? What made you not believe in Baal?

    I have read the bible with an open mind: R.E. is a required class here in the UK up until the age of 13, and unless you’re
    going to sat that we are born not believing in god (in which case, nothing made me not believe in god, just as it didn’t
    make me believe in it). And it didn’t show me anything about the existence of god.

    PS how soon is ‘soon’? The rapture is currently around 1980 years late…

  27. #27 joe
    June 21, 2012

    how can you read the bible with an open mind if it was just a class? its like saying “i know the complete outlook on geography and history” but you didnt continue studying or being taught, since when is 13 a defined age to understand anything accuratly, especially the Bible. You obviously didnt read the bible well enough that whats clearly written in Matthew 24:36,42.; Revelation 3:3. answers your question and Matthew 24: 6 – 14 support that. Ive have seen most sides of the story either for my self, or what people in those walks of life have told me even plausible reasoning for evolution and many things that seems to be giving support to the non existence of God. But beleiving those people is like giving support to serial killers and Hitlers and countless others that give rightous indignation to their cause, sometimes giving strong evidence that convince others of their innocence/ or rightousness to the degree that they follow allong, even the catholics and their dark crusades, saying their ruthless killings was approved by God, or how false reigion are head deep in their contribution to the many wars we see today, mixing politics with religion and comercialism, even Jesus had no part in that so how dare they say they are doing his part Jesus will said he never knew them (Matthew 7:21-23). Now the bible clearly shows how God’s his main quality is love (John 4:8) and he definetly dosnt approve of such lawlessness. and im sorry everything in life is learned, just like we were taught in school to share, and be nice to one another and to be respectful, and all through out school and after we see the opposite. But what do you do? u do your best to uphold good moral values not to steal or hurt people, correct? because you know it to be right, who can say other wise even though the worlds morality is decaying?

  28. #28 Wow
    June 22, 2012

    “how can you read the bible with an open mind if it was just a class?”

    By reading it. How did you read the bible with an open mind?

    “You obviously didnt read the bible well enough”

    Nope, I read it fine. The God of the Bible is proven false by the errors, contradictions and plain horrific slaughter portrayed in the bible.

    The bible COULD NOT have been written by something able to create a universe.

    Now, what made you not believe in Thor?

  29. #29 Wow
    June 22, 2012

    Matthew24 42: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come”

    OK, so it’s telling me I’m ignorant. But, apart from that insult, it’s not saying anything.

    Rev3:3 “and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”

    Repeating the nothing it told me earlier.

    Matthew 24: 6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them”

    So you’re disobeying the bible.

    I guess you don’t believe a word it says either.

    “Now the bible clearly shows how God’s his main quality is love”

    Romans 12:19 “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,”

    Psalm 11:6 Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest

    Yeah, just feel that hot firey brimstoney love…

  30. #30 Sinisa Lazarek
    June 22, 2012

    @ Wow

    Don’t forget this one…

    But God will smash the heads of his enemies, crushing the skulls of those who love their guilty ways. The Lord says, “I will bring my enemies down from Bashan; I will bring them up from the depths of the sea. You, my people, will wash your feet in their blood, and even your dogs will get their share!” (Psalms 68:21-23)

    Very nice book the Old Testament. Makes Conan the Barbarian look like a boyscout. Sometimes I really wonder if all these christians who seem to have nothing better to do than profess religion and Christ on science forums, really know and understand the origins of “their” religion? If you wanna be spiritual, do it in the quite of your own meditation as it should be done. Don’t go about “spreading” the word of “god” or “doing his will”… you are seriously deceiving yourselves if you think God needs any help in doing anything it wants…. if in fact we are to believe it exists.

    And perhaps the most important thing of all…. there are other books out there “oh yea of little faith” instead of just one written thousands of years ago by a bunch of blood loving, pillaging hebrew priests. Try reading some Kuran or Bhavad Gita, or how about some Tao Te Ching…maybe some Fromm or Hesse. But no… you need to think for those… instead it’s so much easier to go to sunday bible study and say that Christ enlightened you… baaah… ignorant zealots.

  31. #31 chelle
    Latveria
    June 22, 2012

    @Wow

    I’m not preoccupied with religion, but there is one phrase in that book, spoken by The Lord, that I find to be cool and inspiring, here it goes:

    “Look among the nations, watch, and wonder marvelously; for I am working a work in your days, which you will not believe though it is told you.” (Habakkuk 1:5)

    Note, it’s not a good thing that he’s going to do, rather a Dr. Doom type of thing : ) Anyway, I find it interesting because that part of the poem talks about things that can/will happen which (almost) no one would believe, such as who know’s the LHC might indeed be setting of a chain-reaction that turns our Sol into one giant Supernova.
    If you look at some events that happen in our Universe, from the viewpoint of a mankind, than it’s clear that crazy thing called God, or plain old nature, can be pretty evilicious, converting whole solar systems into rubble (stardust).

  32. #32 Wow
    June 22, 2012

    There are similarly profound and inspiring words in works of fiction:

    With great power comes great responsibility.

    We don’t, however, use that as proof Spiderman spins his webs in New York…

    If you (the generic you, not you specifically, chelle) wish to take inspiration from the bible in how you wish to live your life, go to it. Just don’t use it to pretend that it’s any more real than the tales of Asgard.

  33. #33 chelle
    Latveria
    June 22, 2012

    @Wow,

    “… don’t use it to pretend that it’s any more real than the tales of Asgard.”

    That is true, some things in the Bible are as true as any other tail that tells us about the things that (can) happen in one’s life. That’s why we like them stories from Shakespeare to the Brothers Grimm … tales of wisdom and experiences … literature, mmh.

  34. #34 Before It's News
    June 24, 2012

    [...] that the solstice is behind us and summer is officially here (for most of us), it’s time to start enjoying the greatest fruits of the season. With the technical [...]

  35. #35 Wow
    July 2, 2012

    That’s spam there.

    A lot of scienceblogs threads are getting these recently.