Bear Thursdays: Ursa Minor


Ursa Minor is colloquially known as the Little Dipper because its seven brightest stars seem to form the shape of a dipper. Ursa Minor is Latin for ‘Little Bear’, and is commonly visualized as a baby bear with an unusually long tail – which was said to have been lengthened due to it being held by the tail and spun around the pole.

Ursa Minor is notable as the location of the north celestial pole. 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.

Ursa Minor was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 1st century astronomer Ptolemy, and remains one of the 88 modern constellations.