Follow The Little Dipper North

Like the “Big Dipper” the “Little Dipper” is actually an asterism.

An asterism is a picture formed by stars within an official constellation or parts of different constellations.

Remember that a constellation is one of the 88 sections of sky used in astronomy to make finding things easier, like a map of the sky.

The constellation is Ursa Minor the "lesser" bear.

The Dipper is 7 stars within Ursa Minor.

The end star at the handle of the dipper is Polaris, the North star.

Viewing Polaris will always let you know which way is north. Slaves escaping from the south in America were told to “follow the drinking gourd”, and keep heading for the bright star.

The “drinking gourd” was an old name for the “Big Dipper”.

You use the Big Dipper to find the North star by following the two stars at the front of the dipper. Traveling about 5 times the distance between these two stars you will find Polaris.

At the north celestial pole, Polaris will be almost directly overhead so it's also known as the Pole star.

Because of precession Polaris will not be the pole star in about 14,000 years. At that time the North star will become Vega in the constellation Lyra.

Right Ascension: 15 hours

Declination: 70 degrees

Visible between latitudes +90 and -10 degrees

Best seen in June at 9:00 PM local time

Named Stars: POLARIS (Alpha Ursae Minoris) KOCAB (Beta Ursae Minoris) Pherkad (Gamma Ursae Minoris) Yildun (Delta Ursae Minoris) Pherkad Minor (11 Ursae Minoris)

Unfortunately Ursa Minor is not filled with many interesting deep-sky objects.

The Ursa Minor dwarf galaxy is easily visible in binoculars.

The "engagement ring" asterism is located near Polaris. It's a circle of stars visible in binoculars and telescopes.

Ursa Minor contains no nebulae or star clusters.

Not a lot to view in Ursa Minor but the dipper plays a stargazing role. The backyard stargazer can gauge visibility by the four stars in the dipper. These stars are of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th magnitude so they can help you figure out what you might be able to see.

This could be an invaluable aid to people dealing with light pollution.

Bordered by Draco Camelopardalis Cepheus

From Little Dipper To Constellation

› Little Dipper
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