Major: constellation visible in the northern hemisphere
Minor: constellation colloquially known as the Little
Common clues: Bear
in the stars; Celestial bear; ____ Major; ____ Minor; Heavenly
bear; Bear in the sky; Nocturnal bear?; Major in astronomy?; Bear
Once a month
in English language:
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North using the Stars
Major is a constellation visible throughout the year in the
northern hemisphere. Its name means Great Bear in Latin, and is
associated with the legend of Callisto.
seven brightest stars form a famous asterism known in the United
Kingdom as the Plough, and was formerly called by the old name
Charles's Wain ("wain" meaning "wagon") as it
still is in Scandinavia, Karlavagnen. This common Germanic name
originally meant the men's wagon (the churls' wagon) in contrast
to the women's wagon (Ursa Minor). There is also a theory that it
was named after Charlemagne. In North America it is commonly
known as the Big Dipper, because the major stars can be seen to
follow the rough outline of a large ladle, or dipper; this is
recognized as a grouping of stars in many cultures throughout the
eras. In Hindu astronomy, it is referred to as Sapta Rishi
meaning "The Seven Sages".
the bowl to the handle, the stars in the Big Dipper are called
Dubhe, Merak, Phecda (or Phad), Megrez, Alioth, Mizar, and Alkaid
(or Benetnash), and are given Bayer designations of Alpha to Eta
Ursae Majoris, in that order. Mizar has a companion star called
Alcor, just visible to the naked eye, which served as a
traditional test of sight.
galaxies are found in Ursa Major, including the pair M81 (one of
the brightest galaxies in the sky) and M82 above the bear's head,
and M101, a beautiful spiral northwest of η Ursae Majoris.
The constellation contains about 50 galaxies, most of which are
below 10th magnitude.
was one of the 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy.
is one of the most widely-known constellations, having been
mentioned by such poets as Homer, Spenser, Shakespeare, and
Tennyson. The Finnish epic Kalevala mentions them, and Vincent
Van Gogh painted them in his painting Starry Night Over the
slavery was still allowed in the southern part of the United
States of America, slaves wishing to escape to the Yankee North
were advised to "follow the drinking gourd," or the
circumpolar constellation of Ursa Major, towards freedom.
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article "Ursa Major".