Ursa Major

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Ursa Major (Latin: "Larger Bear"), also known as the Great Bear, is a constellation visible throughout the year in most of the northern hemisphere. It is dominated by the widely recognized asterism known as the Big Dipper or Plough, which is a useful pointer toward north, and which has mythological significance in numerous world cultures.



The seven brightest stars of Ursa Major form the asterism known as the Big Dipper in the United States and Canada, or the Plough in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Another asterism is recognized in Arab culture, a series of three pairs of stars:

These stars are found along the southwest border of the constellation.

Notable features


Except for Dubhe and Alkaid, the stars of the Big Dipper all have proper motions heading towards a common point in Sagittarius. A few other such stars have been identified, and together they are called the Ursa Major Moving Group.

Mizar, a star in the Big Dipper, forms the famous optical double star with Alcor.

The stars Merak (β Ursae Majoris) and Dubhe (α Ursae Majoris) are known as the "pointer stars" because they are helpful for finding Polaris, also known as the North Star. By visually tracing a line from Merak through Dubhe and continuing, one's eye will land on Polaris, accurately indicating true north.

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