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Constellations - Ursa Major

ursa major Ursa Major, the Big Bear, is one of the most familiar constellations. For those of us at northern latitudes, it can be seen all year as the constellation is circumpolar. (Although its orientation about the pole star will change over the course of the year.)

The star in the middle of the Big Dipper's handle is a double star, you can see them with the naked eye if the sky is clear and your eyesight is good. The brighter of the two stars is known as Mizar, and the fainter one is Alcor. It's easy to spot this double star using a pair of binoculars.

In a telescope, Mizar turns out to be double itself so we have a three star system. All the main stars listed below except Duhbe and Alkaid are part of a moving cluster, though you'll have to wait many thousands of years to notice any shift in position!

Object Magnitude Comments
M81 6.9 Spiral Galaxy
M82 8.4 Irregular Galaxy
M97 12 Owl Nebula
M101 7.9 Spiral Galaxy

Name Mag Distance Comments
 Alioth 1.7 62 L/Y
 Dubhe 1.8 75 L/Y
 Alkaid 1.9 108 L/Y
 Mizar 2.1 59 L/Y An easy double
 Merak 2.3 62 L/Y
 Phad 2.4 75 L/Y
 Megrez 3.3 65 L/Y

Name Mag / Separation Comments
 Mizar 2.3 & 4.0 / 14" Makes naked eye pair with Alcor

Guide to the Northern Sky
Find your way around Ursa Major (Big Dipper)

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Author: Alistair Thomson

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