Star Names:

Ursa Minor


Map of The Constellation of Ursa Minor
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Ursa Minor, or the Little Dipper, is a small constellation in the northern hemisphere. In Latin, its name means "little bear." The constellation was originally listed by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century.

Ursa Minor is usually depicted as a small bear with a long tail. It is said that the tail is so long because the bear is held by its end and spun around the pole.

In Greek mythology, Ursa Minor is associated with Ida, one of the nymphs that nursed the god Zeus as an infant. In another myth, the seven stars of Ursa Minor are identified with the Hesperides, the seven daughters of Atlas who guarded Hera's temple and orchard in which apples that gave immortality grew. The stars of Ursa Minor were once considered to be part of the constellation Draco and formed an asterism called the Dragon's Wing.

The Greeks also sometimes referred to Ursa Minor as the Phoenician. Phoenicians used Ursa Minor for navigation more than they did Ursa Major because, even though it was smaller and fainter, Ursa Minor was closer to the north pole and a better pointer to the north.

The constellation Ursa Minor occupies an area of 256 square degrees and contains one star with known planets. It can be seen at latitudes between +90° and -10° and is best visible at 9 p.m. during the month of June. Ursa Minor is the location of the north celestial pole.

The seven brightest stars in Ursa Minor form the shape of a dipper, similar to the asterism in the constellation Ursa Major. At the end of the handle is [8539] the North Star, Polaris.

[8539] alpha Ursae Minoris, Polaris, is the brightest star in the constellation. Polaris, also known as the Pole Star or North Star, is a yellow supergiant with a magnitude of 2.02. Polaris is also notable for being a Cepheid variable, a pulsating variable star with precise periods of luminosity and pulsation, useful for measuring distances between celestial objects. The North Star is really a multiple star system approximately 430 light-years distant. The primary component is either a bright giant or a supergiant, while the two brighter companions are an F3V main sequence star and a dwarf. There are also two faint, distant companions.

The North Star, Polaris, is a well known star in many cultures. It is one of the navigational stars, used for orientation at sea because of its brightness and location in the sky. The Bedouin call it "the billy goat" and use it as one of the main stars for wandering at night (the other being [1668] Canopus, alpha Carinae).

[8540] beta Ursae Minoris, the second the brightest star in the constellation, is also known as Kochab ("heavenly body" or "star"). Kochab is an orange giant approximately 126 light-years distant from Earth. Its luminosity is 130 times that of the Sun and, with a magnitude of 2.07, it can be seen by the naked eye. Kochab and [8541] Pherkad, gamma Ursae Minoris, are often referred to as the "Guardians of the Pole." Between 1500 BC and 500 CE, the two stars served as twin north pole stars before Polaris took over.

[8541] Pherkad ("calf"), gamma Ursae Minoris, is a hot class A giant classified as a Delta Scuti type variable. It lies about 480 light-years from Earth. Its luminosity is 1,100 times that of the Sun. Pherkad is the third brightest star in Ursa Minor.

[8542] epsilon Ursae Minoris, or Urodelus ("the conspicuous tail"), is a triple star lying about 347 light-years away. The primary component is a yellow giant classified as an eclipsing spectroscopic binary and also as an RS Canum Venaticorum type variable.

[8545] delta Ursae Minoris, or Yildun ("star") is a white dwarf approximately 183 light-years distant.

[8544] zeta Ursae Minoris, or Akhfa al Farkadain ("the dimmer of the two calves") is a white main sequence dwarf lying approximately 380 light-years from Earth. Its luminosity is 200 times that of the Sun. The star is on its way to becoming a giant.

[8548] eta Ursae Minoris, also known as Anwar al Farkadain ("the brighter of the two calves"), is a yellow-white dwarf approximately 97 light-years distant.

Ursa Minor also contains a notable deep sky object. The Ursa Minor Dwarf is a dwarf elliptical galaxy composed mostly of older stars, with little to no star formation going on inside it. The Ursa Minor Dwarf is a satellite galaxy to our own, the Milky Way.

Ursa Minor belongs to the Ursa Major family of constellations, along with Ursa Major, Draco, Canes Venatici, Bootes, Coma Berenices, Corona Borealis, Camelopardalis, Leo Minor and Lynx.

Constellations directly bordering Ursa Minor are Draco, Chamaeleon and Cepheus.

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