Let The Big Dipper Constellation
Guide You Through The Northern Sky



The form of the Big Dipper constellation is a very recognizable shape. Except, technically the seven stars that make up the dippers, both big and little, are not actually constellations.

Constellations are areas of the sky used by astronomers as a guide to finding objects of interest. They are named for the shapes and pictures they represent but often contain more area than just the stars that form that picture.

The dippers are actually asterisms, pictures within larger constellations. The Big Dipper is formed from stars that are part of the constellation Ursa Major,the great or big bear, just as the Little Dipper constellation is made from stars of the constellation Ursa Minor, the lesser or little bear.

big dipper constellation

big dipper constellations with outline

How The Big Dipper Constellation Guides Your Way

Right Ascension: 11 hours

Declination: 50 degrees

Visible between latitudes 90 and -30 degrees

Best seen in April (at 9:00 PM)

Named Stars: DUBHE (Alpha UMa) MERAK (Beta UMa) PHAD (Gamma UMa) MEGREZ (Delta UMa) ALIOTH (Epsilon UMa) MIZAR (Zeta UMa) ALCOR (80 UMa)

Once you find and identify the Big Dipper you can use it to find many other stars and constellations.

Starting at the front of the dipper, imagine a line heading up away from the dipper. This will bring you to Polaris, the north star. Polaris is also the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper.

Continuing on from Polaris will bring you to Cassiopeia constellation which is shaped like a W.

Traveling on will bring you to the great square of Pegasus, in the Pegasus constellation From the corner of Pegasus you will find the Andromeda constellation

"Arc to Arcturus and Speed to Spica."

Follow the curve of the handle of the Big Dipper and you will "Arc to Arcturus", a bright star in the Boötes constellation and continuing on the same curve, if it hasn't set below the horizon yet, you will "speed to Spica", which is in the constellation Virgo. The two stars at the back of the bowl are guides also. From the top of the back stars heading up will bring you to Deneb, the tail of the swan Cygnus.

In the other direction heading down from the dipper's bowl will bring you to Regulus, the brighest star in Leo the constellation of the lion

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