constellation ursa major

Do you see it? This common question frequently precedes the rediscovery of one of the most commonly recognized configurations of stars on the northern sky: the Big Dipper. This grouping of stars is one of the few things that has likely been seen, and will be seen, by every generation. 

The Big Dipper is not by itself a constellation. Although part of the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major), the Big Dipper is an asterism that has been known by different names to different societies. Five of the Big Dipper stars are actually near each other in space and were likely formed at nearly the same time. Connecting two stars in the far part of the Big Dipper will lead one to Polaris, the North Star, which is part of the Little Dipper. Relative stellar motions will cause the Big Dipper to slowly change its configuration over the next 100,000 years. 

Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory, TWAN)

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Stars aren’t still–they move through space. Our Sun and the seven stars that form the Big Dipper in the constellation Ursa Major all orbit the center of the Milky Way at different speeds. So why do today’s constellations closely resemble those depicted by ancient astronomers? Find out why they, like us, saw just a snapshot of cosmic time.

A View Toward M101 : Big, beautiful spiral galaxy M101 is one of the last entries in Charles Messier’s famous catalog, but definitely not one of the least. About 170,000 light-years across, this galaxy is enormous, almost twice the size of our own Milky Way galaxy. M101 was also one of the original spiral nebulae observed by Lord Rosse’s large 19th century telescope, the Leviathan of Parsontown. M101 shares this modern telescopic field of view with spiky foreground stars within the Milky Way, and more distant background galaxies. The colors of the Milky Way stars can also be found in the starlight from the large island universe. Its core is dominated by light from cool yellowish stars. Along its grand spiral arms are the blue colors of hotter, young stars mixed with obscuring dust lanes and pinkish star forming regions. Also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, M101 lies within the boundaries of the northern constellation Ursa Major, about 25 million light-years away. via NASA

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Messier 81, more commonly known as Bode’s Galaxy, is a spiral galaxy located about 12 million light years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy is continuously being studied by professional astrophysicists due to both its size and proximity. This is the neighbour to the Cigar Galaxy, which I blogged about before. I’ve tried to find this galaxy in the sky with my telescope, but I haven’t seen anything yet. Not sure what that says about my skill-set. 🌚

“I’m surrounded by you.”
I think that that journey was tough for Nico, being surrounded by water… surrounded by Percy…

I’ve recorded it to you!

**There are five constellations in the sky: Ursa Major, Perseus, Hydra, Corvus and The Hunter (Zoë Nightshade); can you find them?

So, I think someone on the Zexal writing staff thinks they’re clever.

So it’s probably common enough knowledge that each of the Barians gets their name from a star in the Big Dipper.

Dubhe-> Durbe

Merak-> Gilag

Megraz-> Merag

Alioth-> Alito

Benetnasch-> Nasch

Mizar-> Mizael (interestingly his name IS Mzar in the dub)

and Phecda-> Vector


But here’s something I bet you didn’t know.

Now, stars, while having names, also have a ‘Bayer Designation’, which tells you the order of the stars in the constellation(and sometimes the brightness) and the constellation it’s from(in simple terms).

So first star in the constellation of Ursa Major would be Alpha Ursae Majoris.

Phecda is the 3rd star, giving it the designation of Gamma Ursae Majoris.


Of course, this is a mouthful to write on a star chart(or on anything really), as there are a lot of stars, so thing are often shortened, using the constellation’s abbreviation and the appropriate Greek letter.

Ursae Majoris is shortened to UMa.

The Greek letter for Gamma is γ.


Which means, that shortened down, Phecda, or Gamma Ursae Majoris, is written as,

γ UMa

Severe storm on an Exoplanet

These computer generated images trace the development of severe weather patterns on the highly eccentric HD 80606b exoplanet during the days after its closest approach to its parent star. An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star different from our sun.

The images were produced by computational simulations that modeled the measurements of the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope from the radiating heat of the planet. The six frames are uniformly spaced in time, starting from 4.4 days after approaching the planet near the star, a moment known as “periastron”, and running through 8.9 days after periastron. The blue glow of the crescent is the starlight that has been scattered and reflected by the planet. Starlight appears blue because the planet absorbs very much the red light. The night side appears orange-red as it shines with its own internal heat.

These theoretical models allow astronomers to better understand the weather patterns on distant planets. Although direct telescopic observations of the atmospheres of such worlds may be decades away, such simulations give us a clue as to what we can see when it becomes possible.

Spitzer’s observations stretched over the relatively brief period when global warming was the most intense, running from 20 hours before 10 hours after periastron. Data were collected in November 2007.

HD 80606b is located 190 light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. Your star can be seen with binoculars.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Spitzer