OK, I’m about to admit something a little embarrassing: before I moved to Australia, I could never keep straight which was the Australian flag and which was the New Zealand.
Please, please don’t deport me for this. Did you look at those links I provided? They do look a lot alike, don’t they? It’s not just me, right?
So, once I got it straight which was which, I determined the following:
Similarities: both have the British Union Jack in the upper left corner (upper hoist quarter in flag-speak), and the Southern Cross in the right half (fly).
Differences: the stars on the Southern Cross on the Australian flag are white and mostly seven-pointed, but on the NZ flag they are five-pointed in red, outlined in white. Also, the Australian flag has two additional stars: a small five-pointed one, as part of the constellation, and a very large seven-pointed one in the lower left corner (you guessed it, the lower hoist quarter).
Which raised a few more questions (pardon me if these display yet more colossal ignorance on my part):
1. What is the significance of the Southern Cross?
2. What about that big star off by itself?
3. Why do most of the stars have seven points?
I consulted my primary source for all useless-information research, Wikipedia (as if you couldn't already tell that from the links above), and obtained the following:
The Southern Cross
“As a highly distinctive asterism [constellation], Crux [the Southern Cross’ proper name] has great significance in the cultures of the southern hemisphere.” Of primary importance are its two brighest stars, which are used to find polar south in celestial navigation, since the southern sky has no pole star.
Evidence of its significance is demonstrated by its appearance on the flags or coats of arms of a large number of modern countries, states, provinces, territories and other political entities all over the southern hemisphere. Its prominent role in modern heraldry reflects its position throughout the cultural history of the southern hemisphere: it appears in the mythologies of indigenous cultures across the south Pacific, and is depicted in stone at Machu Picchu in Peru.
The big star
The big star is the Commonwealth Star. It symbolizes “the Federation of Australia which came into force on 1 January 1901.
“Six points of the Star represent the six original states of the Commonwealth of Australia, while the seventh point represents the territories and any future states. The original Star had only six points; however, the proclamation in 1905 of the Territory of Papua led to the addition of the seventh point in 1908 to represent it and future territories.”
So almost all my questions have been answered--except I still don’t know if four of the stars in the Southern Cross have seven points for the same reason as the Commonwealth Star does. Any Australian flag experts out there want to satisfy my curiosity?
Also, have I mentioned that I like trivia?