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Ursa Minor
Ursa Minor
List of stars in Ursa Minor
Abbreviation UMi
Genitive Ursae Minoris
Pronunciation /ˌɜrsə ˈmaɪnər/, genitive /ˌɜrsiː mɨˈnɒrɨs/
Symbolism The Little Bear
Right ascension 15 h
Declination +75°
Family Ursa Major
Quadrant NQ3
Area 256 sq. deg. (56th)
Main stars 7
Stars with planets 1
Stars brighter than 3.00m 3
Stars within 10.00 pc (32.62 ly) 0
Brightest star Polaris (1.97m)
Nearest star UU UMi
(42.60 ly, 13.06 pc)
Messier objects 0
Meteor showers Ursids
Visible at latitudes between +90° and −10°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of June.

Ursa Minor, often called the Little Dipper, is a constellation in the northern sky. Its name is Latin for 'little bear', contrasting with Ursa Major, the Great Bear. Like the big dipper, the handle of the little dipper is the tail of the "little bear". It was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and remains one of the 88 modern constellations. Ursa Minor is notable as the location of the north celestial pole, although this will change after some centuries due to the precession of the equinoxes.[1]


Notable features



Ursa Minor is colloquially known as the Little Dipper because its seven brightest stars seem to form the shape of a dipper (ladle or scoop). The star at the end of the dipper handle is Polaris, the North Star. Polaris can also be found by following a line through the two stars which form the end of the "bowl" of the Big Dipper, a nearby asterism found in the constellation Ursa Major.

Polaris (α UMi), the brightest star in the constellation, is a yellow supergiant shining at 2.02 apparent magnitude . It belongs to the rare class of Cepheid variable stars. Only a bit less bright is β UMi (Kochab), a 2.08 orange giant star.

The four stars in the "bowl" of the little dipper are unusual in that they are of second, third, fourth and fifth magnitude. Hence they provide an easy guide to determining what magnitude stars are visible, useful for city dwellers or testing your eyesight.

Named stars

  Polaris      α UMi       2.02      430
  Kochab      β UMi       2.07      126
  Pherkad      γ UMi       3.00      480
  Yildun      δ UMi       4.85      185
  Urodelus      ε UMi       4.21      347
  Ahfa al Farkadain      ζ UMi       4.32      376
  Anwar al Farkadain      η UMi       4.95        97

Deep sky objects

Ursa Minor Dwarf, a dwarf galaxy, is located in the area of the constellation.

History and mythology

Ursa Minor, with Draco looping around it, as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c.1825

Ursa Minor is commonly visualized as a baby bear with an unusually long tail. The tail was said to have been lengthened from that usually expected for a bear, due to its being held by the tail and spun around the pole.(The center of the sky)

Ursa Minor and Ursa Major were related by the Greeks to the myth of Callisto and Arcas. However, in a variant of the story, in which it is Boötes that represents Arcas, Ursa Minor was considered to represent a dog. This is the older tradition which sensibly explains both the length of the tail and the obsolete alternate name of Cynosura (the dog's tail) for Polaris, the North Star.[2]

Previously, Ursa Minor was considered to be just seven close stars, mythologically regarded as sisters. In early Greek mythology, the seven stars of the Little Dipper were considered to be the Hesperides, daughters of Atlas. Together with the nearby constellations of Boötes, Ursa Major, and Draco, it may have formed the origin of the myth of the apples of the Hesperides, which forms part of the Labours of Hercules.

In earliest times, Ursa Minor was named the Dragon's wing, and was considered a part of Draco. The dragon's wing as an asterism is now long forgotten.[citation needed]

In other cultures, Ursa Minor was the hole in which the Earth's axle found its bearing. In Hindu mythology, the Pole Star is Dhruva (the word means "pole" today), and there is a story behind him becoming a star.{i {Fact|date=December 2008}}

In Hungarian mithology the constellation's called 'Little Goncol cart' (Göncöl szekér) after a legendary shaman (Ursa Major is 'Big Goncol cart'). His knowledge knew no limit; he invented the cart: his nation was wandering, cart was the biggest present of the Gods to them. Legends claim he knew everything on the world. Nobody saw his death, his body disappeared among the stars.

See also


  1. ^ Guilherme de Almeida (2004). Navigating the Night Sky: How to Identify the Stars and Constellations. Springer. ISBN 1852337370. 
  2. ^ Allen, Richard Hinckley (1969). Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning. Dover Publications Inc. (Reprint of 1899 original). ISBN 0-486-21079-0. 


  • Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion (2007). Stars and Planets Guide, Collins, London. ISBN 978-0007251209. Princeton University Press, Princeton. ISBN 978-0691135564.

External links

Coordinates: Sky map 15h 00m 00s, +75° 00′ 00″

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

URSA MINOR (" THE LITTLE Bear"), in astronomy, a constellation of the northern hemisphere, mentioned by Thales (7th century B.C.) and by Eudoxus and Aratus. By the Greeks it was sometimes named Cynosura (Gr. Kuvos, dog's; ova, tail), alleging this to be one of the dogs of Callisto, who became Ursa major. The Phoenicians named it Phoenice, or the Phoenician constellation, possibly in allusion to the fact that the brightest star is a Ursae minoris or the pole-star, which being situated very close to the north pole is of incalculable service to navigators. Ptolemy catalogued 8 stars, Tycho Brahe 7 and Hevelius a Ursae minoris, more generally known as the pole-star or Polaris, a star of the 2nd magnitude, describes a circle of 2° 25' daily about the north pole; it has a 9th-magnitude companion, and is also a spectroscopic binary.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



From Latin ursa minor, the "lesser bear"

Proper noun

Ursa Minor

Ursa Minor

Ursa Minor (Ursa Minor)

  1. (astronomy) A circumpolar constellation of the northern sky, said to resemble a bear. It includes the familiar asterism the Little Dipper and, as part of it, the northern pole star Polaris.

Derived terms


See also

Simple English

Ursa Minor is a constellation often called the Little Bear. It contains the north star, called Polaris. .


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