|Winter: Orion Canis Major Canis Minor Monoceros Lepus Eridanus Taurus Auriga Camelopardalis Lynx Gemini Cancer|
|Spring: Hydra Sextans Crater Corvus Leo Leo Minor Ursa Major Ursa Minor Canes Venatici Coma Berenices Virgo Bootes|
|Summer: Draco Corona Borealis Hercules Ophiuchus Serpens Libra Scorpius Sagittarius Scutum Aquila Sagitta Vulpecula Lyra Cygnus|
|Autumn: Andromeda Perseus Pegasus Cassiopeia Cephus Cetus Lacerta Delphinus Equuleus Capricornus Aquarius Pisces Aries|
|Southern Skies: Centaurus Crux Lupus Corona Australis Piscis Australis Sculptor Tucana Fornax Dorado Columba Puppis Carina Vela|
At the feet (hooves) of Sagittarius lies a crown of leaves. It is generally accepted that it is the crown of Sagittarius. In the second century AD, Ptolemy named it the Southern Wreath. Now known as the Southern Crown, Corona Australis is a small but distinctive semicircle of stars, similar in shape, though not so bright, as the Northern Crown, Corona Borealis. In deference to the Northern Crown's brightest star, Alphecca, the Southern Crown's alpha star is named Alfecca Meridiana.
Sitting right on the edge of the Milky Way, the star fields surrounding Corona Australis are rich with star clusters and nebulae. One area of high interest includes the closely bound group of bright emission nebulae, lit up by the radiant light of newly formed stars inside them. It is an area of dark dust, superheated gas, million mph shockwaves, and intense star formation.
In August, 2000, the European Southern Observatory in Chile targeted this area with their 8.2 meter Very Large Telescope (VLT), 8,500 feet (2,600 meters) high in the Andes, and produced the following stunning photos. The first is a wide field photo of the area in the graphic above, which dramatically shows the wispy tendrils of dark interstellar dust stretching dozens of light years through space. The dark, elongated patch near the center of the photo alone is more than eight light years long. The dust is about 400 light years from us, but the globular star cluster in the upper right (NGC 6723) is very much in the background, over 28,000 light years away.
The next image zooms in for a closer look at the region containing the emission nebulae NGC 6726/6727, NGC 6729, and IC4812.
Finally, a detailed close-up view deep inside the nebulae, showing intense activity, with billowing streams and swirling eddies of dust clouds, buffeted by the shockwaves and gravitational fields generated by the violent birth of thousands of stars.