Constellation Ursa Major

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The constellation Ursa Major (The Big Dipper), evoked to the traditional stories of many people, is one of the constellations which have more stimulated the men imagination.

The constellation Ursa Major is also one of the largest. It is best known for a group of seven stars that form the so-called Plough. Five stars of the Plough are part of a group of very close stars among them. Usually the opposite happens, so the stars that belong to a same constellation are often in fact far distant from others. It has been able to discover this fact by measuring the distances that separate us from the stars and observing their own movements.

The constellation Ursa Major

The constellation Ursa Major. Credit: Gerard Bajona

 

How to locate the constellation Ursa Major

Ursa Major serves as a starting point for finding other constellations. To locate this constellation just look to the North. The constellation Ursa Major covers a region of the sky between 73° N and 28° N declination, and between 8 hours 5 minutes and 13 hours 30 minutes of right ascension. This constellation is fully visible all year from latitudes higher than 62° N and part of the year from the area between 62° N and 17° S. Below 17° S, Ursa Major is never fully visible.

 

Remarkable stars in Ursa Major

The most interesting star in this constellation is Zeta Ursae Majoris (magnitude 2.5). This is a remarkable star system also called Mizar. This star actually consists of two stars: Mizar A (magnitude 2) and Mizar B (magnitude between 4 and 5).

Another particularly important star is Csi Ursae Majoris (magnitude 3.7), the first double star in which was discovered the gravitational attraction between the two components.

 

Mythology

According to a legend of the North American Indian populations, the stars of the Ursa Major represent two bears, four wolves and a hunting dog that accompanied the wolves in their raids. Wolves and dogs ventured into the sky to hunt the two bears who saw in the sky. Alcor, the little star next to Mizar, would be the hunting dog. The constellation Ursa Major has a position that represents the animal’s life cycle: rises in the spring at the end of lethargy, takes a complete turn by the sky and returns to sleep with the first cold.

 

The constellation Ursa Major chart

Ursa Major chart

The constellation Ursa Major chart. Generated with Stellarium.

Ursa Major chart

The constellation Ursa Major chart. Generated with Stellarium.

 

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