The Little Dipper

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The Little Dipper
Little dipper.png
Observational Data
Right ascension 15h
Declination +75o
Nearby constellations Draco
Camelopardalis
Cepheus
Area 256 sq. deg.
Number of stars 23 Bayer/Flamsteed stars
Main stars 7
Brightest star Polaris (Apparent Mag: 2.02)
Nearest star to Earth Pi Ursae Minoris (70.8 ly)
Known planets 1
Messier objects 0
Ancient symbol Little Bear


Ursa Minor, a constellation colloquially known as the Little Dipper, is a circumpolar constellation located in the northern celestial sphere. The name Ursa Minor is from Latin, meaning "little bear". The handle of the Little Dipper is the tail of the Little Bear, while the cup represents the flank of the bear.[1] The constellation is often associated with the constellation Ursa Major, which contains the asterism known as the Big Dipper. The constellation was one of the original 44 as recorded by Ptolemy, and is one of the 88 modern constellations today.[2] Ursa Minor is also well known as the north celestial pole is presently located within the constellation near the star Polaris.

Mythology

According to Greek mythology, the origin of the constellation is from the story of Callisto and her son Arcas. Zeus had fallen for the beautiful Callisto, who was princess of Arcadia, and she bore him Arcas. Hera, the queen of the gods became angry and transformed Callisto into a bear. Years later Arcas was out hunting and Hera arranged for him to find Callisto. Before he could kill the bear who was his mother, Zeus intervened and transformed Callisto into the constellation Ursa Major and Arcas into Ursa Minor so mother and son would be together forever in the night sky.[3]

It was also known as Κυνόσουρα, or Cynosura meaning dog's tail, based on another Greek myth about the nymph Cynosura, who along with Helice (who became Ursa Major), nursed Zeus while he was in hiding from his father Cronus. As a reward, Zeus placed her into the heavens as the constellation.[4]

Stars and Other Features

The constellation is more commonly known by its informal name The Little Dipper. This is because the seven brightest stars of the constellation have an appearance of a ladle. At the end of the "handle" for the The Little Dipper is the north star Polaris, which is also the brightest star of the constellation. The satellite dwarf galaxy, Ursa Minor Dwarf is also located within the constellation.

Named Stars

  • Polaris - Alpha Ursae Minoris (α UMi)
  • Kochab - Beta Ursae Minoris (β UMi)
  • Pherkad - Gamma Ursae Minoris (γ UMi)
  • Yidum - Delta Ursae Minoris (δ UMi)
  • Urodelus - Epsilon Ursae Minoris (ε UMi)
  • Akhfa al Farkadain - Zeta Ursae Minoris (ζ UMi)
  • Anwar al Farkadain - Eta Ursae Minoris (η UMi)
  • Pherkad Minor - 11 Ursae Minoris (11 UMi)

References