The Big Dipper, Which Resides Within Ursa Major

The Big Dipper, Which Resides Within Ursa Major

Ursa Major

I have spent many an evening laying outside, gazing up at the stars.  Although on occasion I will use this time to ponder the complexity and vastness of the universe, my mind more often than not drifts to my faintly irritating need to put a name to everything I see.

Allow me to say here, for everyone like me who loves to drone on about non-vital factoids, that the big dipper is not a constellation!  It is, in fact, an asterism – a pattern of stars that is NOT a constellation.  Interesting, eh?
Constellation name: Ursa Major; “the great bear” (Ursa major includes the big dipper)
Appearance: distinctive ladle or plough shape forms the big dipper; a large boxy shape and a couple spindly legs complete the constellation
Major stars included: The Big Dipper (the 7 stars of the “Big Dipper” are called an asterism, and form only part of Ursa Major); 3rd largest constellation
When/where found: Ursa Major is found in the northern Hemisphere; it is highest in the sky in the spring and lowest in the fall.  It can be seen at any time of the year
Lore: Callisto, the goddess of hunting, promised herself to Artemis.  One day Zeus disguised himself as Artemis and slept with her, thus making her pregnant.  She gave birth to a son, Arcas.  Zeus’s wife, Hera, naturally became angry.  She took her revenge by turning Callisto into a bear. Callisto saw her son Arcas one day, and ran toward him in joy.  All Arcas saw was a large bear running toward him, so he prepared to kill it.  Zeus evaded this problem by turning Arcas into a bear as well, and threw them both into the sky (as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor).
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