The Most Stunning Constellations Overlooking the Southern Hemisphere

Todd Neikirk
Photo Credit: 1. ESO / T. Preibisch / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0 2. Canva
Photo Credit: 1. ESO / T. Preibisch / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0 2. Canva

North Americans who look at the night sky are familiar with the constellations that dot the Northern Hemisphere, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. There are a number of beautiful star clusters to be seen the Southern Hemisphere, and it helps if you paid attention in Latin class. Here are some of the most beautiful constellations on the other side of the world.


View of Puppis
The Milky Way partially runs through the Puppis constellation. (Photo Credit: Alan Dyer / VW Pics / UIG / Getty Images)

Puppis was once part of the larger Argo Navis constellation, named for the ship of ancient Greece‘s Jason and the Argonauts. It was split into three by French Astronomer Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille, and its name comes from the constellation’s former location on the vessel, the poop deck.

Naos, the brightest star in Puppis, is also one of the hottest in the entire Solar System. Other highlights include M46, M47 and the part of the Milky Way that runs through the constellation.


View of Vela
Vela features the Southern Ring Nebula. (Photo Credit: NASA / Hubble Heritage Team / STScl / AURA / ESA / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Vela, another Southern Hemisphere constellation, was also once part of Argo Navis and would have previously made up the sails of the Argonaut. There are many delightful features within Vela, including the Southern Ring Nebula.

In 2013, a brown dwarf system known as Luhman 16 was discovered within the constellation and is the third closest of its kind to our very own Solar System. Vela is easily accessible to astronomers carrying a high-quality pair of binoculars, particularly during the month of March.


View of Eridanus
Eridanus is one of the oldest charted constellations in the Southern Hemisphere. (Photo Credit: Alan Dyer / VW Pics / UIG / Getty Images)

Eridanus is one of the oldest constellations visible in the Southern Hemisphere and is considered among the largest. It was discovered by Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD, and has always been deeply connected to such rivers as the Po and Nile.

Highlights of the constellation include Beta Eridani, a blue-white star located 89 light-years from Earth; the triple-star system, 40 Eridani; and Epsilon Eridani, a star with an extra-solar planet that’s similar to Jupiter.


View of Crux
The Crux constellation is also known as the Southern Cross. (Photo Credit: Antonio Ferretti / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Crux, also known as the Southern Cross, is famous for two different reasons. The first is that it points toward the South Pole, and the second is for the Crucids, the constellation’s version of a meteor shower. It also features the NGC 4755 cluster – nicknamed the Jewel Box – which is visible to the naked eye.

The Southern Cross appears on a number of country’s flags – New Zealand, Brazil, Samoa, Australia, etc. – and was name-checked in the popular 1981 song by Crosby, Stills & Nash.


View of Tucana
Tucana is named after the Toucan. (Photo Credit: NASA / AFP / Getty Images)

Tucana was first conceived in the 16th century by Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius, who was inspired by the works of Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman. The constellation was named Tucana, after the toucan. Like the bird, it features a dazzling array of bright colors.

Tucana is perhaps best known for the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, named for famed explorer Ferdinand Magellan.


View of NGC 1566, in the Dorado constellation
Dorado contains NGC 1566, an example of a spiral galaxy. (Photo Credit: ESA / Hubble / NASA / Det58 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0)

Dorado, named for the dolphinfish, was officially crowned in the 16th century. Within the constellation are many delights for the eye, including the Tarantula Nebula, famed for its luminosity.

Also within Dorado is NGC 1566, a perfect example of a spiral galaxy that’s been beautifully photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope, and N44, a stunning superbubble that’s 1,000 light-years wide.


View of the Carina Nebula
The Carina Nebula is the best-known feature of the constellation. (Photo Credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble SM4 ERO Team / Getty Images)

Carina is the third part of the former Argo Navis, making up the keel of the ship. The constellation is the second best-known in the Southern Hemisphere.

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The reason for the constellation’s notoriety is the Carina Nebula. It suffered an explosion around 150 years ago, but didn’t become a supernova. The result is an utterly stunning feature in the sky. Within Carina is also Canopus, a supergiant with the distinction of being the second-brightest star in the night sky.


Todd Neikirk is a New Jersey-based politics, entertainment and history writer. His work has been featured in,, and He enjoys sports, politics, comic books, and anything that has to do with history.

When he is not sitting in front of a laptop, Todd enjoys soaking up everything the Jersey Shore has to offer with his wife, two sons and American Foxhound, Wally.