Five Flags for New Zealand

The Final Few

Back in November and December 2015, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents ranked five new designs for the country’s flag. The question “If the New Zealand flag changes, which flag would you prefer?” was asked between November 20 and December 11.

These were the options:

[gdl_gallery title=”Final Four NZ Flags” width=”280″ height=”150″]

And the late addition to the pack:

Red Peak

The black, white, and blue ‘silver fern’ flag (option number four as shown above) was the winner, as the most popular flag from the rankings.

This month, there will be a second referendum to determine if people want to adopt the ‘silver fern’ or would prefer to keep the old flag. Voting is now open (March 3-24) so we have a few weeks to wait before we will find out what the people decide.

The Telegraph have kindly compiled a list of their best and worst entries, which is great for a giggle.

Southern cross

The Southern Cross appears on both the Australian flag, current New Zealand flag, and two out of the five new designs. But it’s pretty easy to spot a major difference: there is an extra star on the Australian flag. So which flag is “correct”? Should the Southern cross have the fifth star, or not?

There are 88 modern constellations, covering the entire sky. Every point in the sky is part of exactly one constellation, so this creates a good way to refer to the locations of objects visible in the sky. The official Latin name for the constellation containing the Southern Cross is Crux, after the Latin for “cross.”

The constellation Crux includes the five stars… and many more. The brightest star in the constellation is Alpha Crucis, the “bottom” of the cross. It is actually a group of 3 stars, all orbiting around each other. They are 321 light years away from Earth.

Bayer Designation

Stars are often named using Bayer Designation, such as Alpha Crucis. The Greek letter at the start generally lists the stars in order of brightness, and the second word refers to its constellation.

Other stars have their own names. Orion is a constellation whose main stars all have their own special names, which you may have heard. These include

  • Alpha Orionis, also known as Betelgeuse, spelled nothing like the way it is (usually) pronounced: “Beetle-Juice”. Yes, the inspiration for the Michael Keaton character in the 1988 film was this star.
  • Beta Orionis, also known as Rigel. It is actually the brightest star in Orion, brighter even than Betelgeuse most of the time.
  • Gamma Orionis, also known as Bellatrix. The character Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter was named after this star (as were many members of the Black family including Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris, the brightest star in the sky) and Regulus (Alpha Leonis).

Other constellations

Of the 88 constellations, 12 of them correspond to the Zodiac. The sun’s path throughout the year traces a line through the sky, which (originally) passed through 12 constellations, the ones we associate with the Zodiac.

The times of year the sun is within each constellation don’t correspond to the traditional zodiac for a variety of reasons. The constellations aren’t all the same width: the sun necessarily spends more in some than in others. Also, over time the Earth’s rotational axis wobbles (called precession) and hence everything has shifted a bit.

And in 1930, the International Astronomical Union redefined constellation boundaries, and the ecliptic now passes through a thirteenth constellation: Ophiuchus, from the Greek “serpent bearer”.


The photo of the (current) New Zealand flag is borrowed and edited with thanks from Tākuta under a Creative Commons licence.