If you visit Tataka in Yushan National Park on a cloudless night in late March, you can see the Southern Cross standing up straight on the southern horizon as though in greeting.
At 2,500 meters of altitude and two degrees Celsius, you will get the feeling that the view of the Southern Cross on the mountain at Tataka seems to be clearer than by the beach in Kenting. This is because there is a higher level of atmospheric transparency on the mountain and less interference from low-hanging clouds.
Photos of the Carina Nebula, which is to the east of the Southern Cross, highlights this: the nebula, nicknamed “the Rose of the Southern Sky,” appears bright red in photos taken atop mountains; by the beach, its color is indiscernible in photos. However, the difference in the Carina Nebula’s colors cannot be seen by the naked eye or through binoculars, as the wavelength of the infrared light emitted by the nebula is beyond humans’ range of vision.
The Carina Nebula is similar to the Orion Nebula in many ways — they are both diffuse nebulae that are red in color, visible by the eye, and good targets of observation using low-power binoculars. Both are visible on the northern and the southern hemispheres, although the Carina Nebula is only visible south of the Tropic of Cancer.
The grand tour of the night sky. (P.K. Chen photo)
As you view the Southern Cross at Tataka, the Big Dipper is right behind you in the north. If you lie down on your side on the grass, you will be able to trace the curve of the Big Dipper’s handle to find Arcturus of the constellation Bootes, Spica of Virgo, Corvus, and right beneath Corvus — the Southern Cross.
In my 34-year experience stargazing on Yushan, this grand tour of the night sky spanning from the north to the south is one of the most interesting discoveries. It allows you to see the night sky rose, the South Cross, and the Big Dipper in one go as well as the sight of the northern and southern skies’ representative constellations shining across from each other.
The Southern Cross and Carina Nebula as viewed by the beach in Kenting. (P.K. Chen photo)
Ursa Major and Polaris. (P.K. Chen GIF)
(Translation by Stephanie Chiang)