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How to Find Ursa Minor the Little Bear Constellation (Little Dipper)

Welcome to Learn the Sky, your online resource for learning about the

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detail and need a guide, visit learnthesky.com to learn more about our

online classes we offer. Welcome! My name is Janine and in this video we will

learn about the constellation known as Ursa Minor, also sometimes called the

Little Dipper. Ursa Minor is an ancient constellation and it's an important one to

know. It contains the star called Polaris

which is also known as the North Star. This is the only star in the sky

that appears not to move. Knowing the location of this star can be very

helpful for navigational purposes since it always indicates where the northern

direction is. Ursa Minor is an ancient constellation and the earliest records

date back to the ancient Babylonians. It's recognized in many cultures

throughout human history. The name Ursa Minor is Latin for lesser bear. In

the 2nd century it was included in Ptolemy's 48 constellations and is now

counted among the 88 modern constellations. This constellation is so

important because it contains Polaris the North Star and this star, right here,

does not appear to move in the sky. It's often called the Little

Dipper, which is technically an asterism and not its true name. We can use the

Little Dipper because that's certainly what it looks like. So, when can you see

Ursa Minor? It can be seen all year round in the Northern Hemisphere. The best

way to find it is to use the pointer stars in Ursa Major which is also called

the Big Dipper. These two stars will point directly to the North Star. You can

also use Cassiopeia to help you navigate

towards the direction of Polaris as well. Sometimes this constellation can be

challenging to see. As you're looking at this picture, three of the

stars are pretty bright of second magnitude but the other four stars are

pretty faint. So, sometimes when you're looking at it you can really only see

three stars out of the seven that makes up this star pattern. Let's examine one

of the more famous legends about Ursa Minor that comes from Roman mythology.

It's about a woman named Callisto and her son, Arcas. Jupiter the King of the

Gods in Roman mythology lusted after a woman named Callisto. Callisto had a

son named Arcus. Jupiter's wife, Juno, believed that the son was Jupiter's so

Juno transform Callisto into a bear so Jupiter would no longer desire her. Arcus

encountered his mother in bear form while he was hunting in the forest and

he nearly killed her. So, Jupiter decided to transform Arcus into a bear to

protect both mother and son from his wife, Juno. And he placed them both in the

sky together. This is just one version of the story I read about. In reality

there's a variety of myths and legends that exist about Ursa Major and Ursa

Minor. The mythologies of the star vary according to time, place, and culture.

There is really no one true mythology story for any constellation. There's just

a variety of them. Now, it's time to get familiar with the pattern of Ursa Minor. So

here is the official star map of the constellation Ursa Minor. You can see

it contains seven stars in the pattern, but remember constellations are really

like borders of countries. All the stars that fall within this white

section are part of the constellation. If you look at the magnitude scale

right here, and compare it to the stars in Ursa Minor, you can see that really

only three of the stars are of lower magnitude which

means that they are brighter. The other four stars are pretty faint, so this can

be challenging when you're looking for Ursa Minor. It also has that ladle shape.

So, you kind of have the the cup of the ladle and then here would be the handle.

It kind of curves in this direction. So, here we have a picture of Ursa Minor.

Are you able to see the three main bright stars in it and then point out

the other four fainter stars? Here's what Ursa Minor looks like and right here

this is Polaris, that star that's oriented over the North celestial pole,

which in turn makes it appear not to move. Let's get some more practice. So,

here again, we have Ursa Minor. Can you point out that ladle shape, the dipper

shape? So, right here we have these four stars and then the handle curves upward

towards Polaris. Now, the best way to find this constellation is using the Little

or the Big Dipper, also which is part of a pattern within the bigger

constellation of Ursa Major. So, whenever you talk about Ursa Minor it's usually

with Ursa Major. Not only because of the legend but because you use these two

constellations to help navigate and to find each other. So, what we're looking at

here is a collection of constellations that can be seen throughout the year. So,

the serpent polar constellations- they lie very close to Polaris, so you can see

them all year round in the Northern Hemisphere. So, if you're looking at this

picture, the star that's right in the middle is Polaris. So, from there can you

find the handle and then the cut part of Ursa Minor. So, if we were to point things

out, this is what we have we have Ursa Minor, right here, and then we have Ursa

Major which is really this is just the Big Dipper part of Ursa Major, and here

are the pointer stars that you use to point you towards Polaris. You can

also use Cassiopeia, right here. You can use that middle star kind of like an

arrow pointing you right towards Ursa Major. So, these are the two

constellations you can use to help find the North Star. There are a few other

constellations here. We have Cepheus, right there, which is right next to

Cassiopeia; and then we have a part of Draco. Draco is a really large

constellation, so it doesn't fit in this entire photograph. But, how can you tell

the difference between Ursa Major and Ursa Minor? There are some differences.

These are the three differences I use to help teach others how they look

different. So, with Ursa Major the handle is concave it's much larger in

size when you compare it to Ursa Minor. Then, if you look at the the

different stars, here, that are in the Big Dipper, they're all relatively the same

magnitude. So, it stands out really really well in the sky. When you look

at Ursa Minor, it kind of has this convex handle. It's smaller in size and

really only three of the main stars are easily seen. I have another diagram here

for you to help kind of demonstrate this concept. But again, the handles curve

differently, Ursa Major is much bigger than Ursa Minor, and, in fact, we're really

only looking at the asterisms here. The Big Dipper and Little Dipper. For the Big

Dipper, that asterism is smaller than the whole constellation. But, for the Little

Dipper, the Little Dipper asterism is the exact same of the as the pattern of Ursa

Minor. So again, more stars are kind of visible here in the Big Dipper where you

have these three stars- are really the ones that are bright. So, use these

strategies to help you find the differences between these two asterisms

and constellations. Now we'll take a look at the brighter stars in this star

pattern. So, here we have a picture of Ursa Minor and hopefully you're starting

to learn the pattern how the handle curves and

these four stars connect as well. We have these two brighter stars and then this

is Polaris. So, let's learn a little bit more about Polaris. It's estimated to be

432 light years away and it's a

yellow white supergiant star, at least the main star of this triple star system.

So, if we zoom in here, remember we use the pointer stars to find Polaris. Here

we have Polaris A and Polaris B. If you had a telescope and aim it

towards Polaris you're most likely able to find Polaris B but you're not likely

to find the smaller Polaris A bbecause it's just too close to the larger star

in the system. If we take a look a closer look at this system, we have the large

white giant star, right here; and then you have Polaris Ab, that's very close to

the main star; and then here is Polaris B. Now, all of these stars are larger than

our Sun, but Polaris B and Polaris Ab are only about 1.3 to 1.2 times the mass

of our Sun. So, those two stars are very similar to our own star. But, Polaris A is

estimated to be 4.5 times the mass of our own Sun. Remember I want to give

you a visual as to why this star system is so important. It is situated over our

North celestial Pole. So, what does that mean? So, here we have an image of the

Earth and it shows you the axial tilt. So, the tilt of the earth is estimated to be

23 and 1/2 degrees. Then here this little star represents Polaris and

Polaris is oriented over our axial tilt. That's why it appears not to move in

the sky. Finally, we'll move on to the celestial objects we can see. Ursa

Minor is pretty devoid of any celestial objects. There's no nebulae and there's

no star cluster situated in the boundaries of this constellation. I

picked out this map because it shows you a little

more than the previous map of where this one particular celestial object is and

it is a galaxy right here. It's name is NGC 6217 and it's a barred spiral

galaxy estimated be 67 million light-years away. Here we have Ursa

Minor and this is kind of its general location of where it would be. So, it's a

barred spiral galaxy because it has that bar running right through the center and

then the arms spiral out from there. This concludes our video about Ursa Minor. So,

let's review everything we've learned about it so far. It's best seen pretty

much all year round in the Northern Hemisphere if you happen to live there.

It's classified as a circumpolar constellation which means that it can be

seen all year round. The best way to find it is learning how to recognize the Big

Dipper and use the pointer stars to find Ursa Minor. You can also use the

constellation Cassiopeia to light your way as well. The brighter stars include

Polaris, Kochab and Pherkad. There are some celestial objects. There's a

couple galaxies, but otherwise it's pretty devoid of any type of celestial

objects besides these pairs of galaxies. So, I wish you luck in finding Ursa Minor.

It's a constellation that took me time to be able to find it

simply because I was looking for seven stars, but in reality really can only see

about three of them clearly, especially if you live in an area that has light

pollution. Remember use the Big Dipper to help you find this constellation and

once you learn how to do it, you'll always be able to find the North

direction. Good luck and keep looking up!

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