Ursa Major

Ursa Major

Overview
Ursa Major also known as the Great Bear, is a constellation
Constellation
In modern astronomy, a constellation is an internationally defined area of the celestial sphere. These areas are grouped around asterisms, patterns formed by prominent stars within apparent proximity to one another on Earth's night sky....

 visible throughout the year in most of the northern hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

. It can best be seen in April. It is dominated by the widely recognized asterism
Asterism (astronomy)
In astronomy, an asterism is a pattern of stars recognized on Earth's night sky. It may form part of an official constellation, or be composed of stars from more than one. Like constellations, asterisms are in most cases composed of stars which, while they are visible in the same general direction,...

 known as the Big Dipper
Big Dipper
The Plough, also known as the Big Dipper or the Saptarishi , is an asterism of seven stars that has been recognized as a distinct grouping in many cultures from time immemorial...

 or Plough, which is a useful pointer toward north
North
North is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.North is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to east and west.By convention, the top side of a map is north....

, and which has mythological significance in numerous world cultures.

The seven brightest star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

s of Ursa Major form the asterism
Asterism (astronomy)
In astronomy, an asterism is a pattern of stars recognized on Earth's night sky. It may form part of an official constellation, or be composed of stars from more than one. Like constellations, asterisms are in most cases composed of stars which, while they are visible in the same general direction,...

 known as the Big Dipper
Big Dipper
The Plough, also known as the Big Dipper or the Saptarishi , is an asterism of seven stars that has been recognized as a distinct grouping in many cultures from time immemorial...

 in the United States and Canada, or the Plough in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

.

Another asterism is recognized in Arab culture, a series of three pairs of stars:
  • ν
    Nu Ursae Majoris
    Nu Ursae Majoris is a binary star in the constellation Ursa Major. It is approximately 400 light years from the Earth.The primary component, Nu Ursae Majoris A, is an orange K-type giant with an apparent magnitude of 3.5m...

     and ξ
    Xi Ursae Majoris
    Xi Ursae Majoris is a star system in the constellation Ursa Major. On May 2, 1780, Sir William Herschel discovered that this was a binary star system, making it the first such system ever discovered...

     Ursae Majoris, Alula Borealis and Australis, the "first leap";
  • λ
    Lambda Ursae Majoris
    Lambda Ursae Majoris is a star in the constellation Ursa Major. It also has the proper names Tania Borealis meaning "the Northern of Tania." The word Tania comes from the Arabic phrase al-Thāniyah meaning "the Second " , and Alkafzah...

     and μ
    Mu Ursae Majoris
    Mu Ursae Majoris is a star in the constellation Ursa Major. It also has the proper names Tania Australis meaning "the Southern of Tania." The word Tania comes from the Arabic phrase al-Thāniyah meaning "the Second " , Alkafzah...

     Ursae Majoris, Tania Borealis and Australis, the "second leap";
  • ι
    Iota Ursae Majoris
    Iota Ursae Majoris is a star system in the constellation Ursa Major. It is approximately 47.7 light years from Earth. It has the traditional names Talitha, Talitha Borealis and Alphikra Borealis, and was also named Dnoces after Edward H. White II, an Apollo 1 astronaut...

     and κ
    Kappa Ursae Majoris
    Kappa Ursae Majoris is a binary star in the constellation Ursa Major. It is approximately 423 light years from Earth and has the traditional names Talitha Australis, Al Kaprah, and Alphikra Australis....

     Ursae Majoris, Talitha Borealis and Australis, the "third leap".

These stars are found along the southwest border of the constellation.

Except for Dubhe and Alkaid, the stars of the Big Dipper all have proper motion
Proper motion
The proper motion of a star is its angular change in position over time as seen from the center of mass of the solar system. It is measured in seconds of arc per year, arcsec/yr, where 3600 arcseconds equal one degree. This contrasts with radial velocity, which is the time rate of change in...

s heading towards a common point in Sagittarius
Sagittarius (constellation)
Sagittarius is a constellation of the zodiac, the one containing the galactic center. Its name is Latin for the archer, and its symbol is , a stylized arrow. Sagittarius is commonly represented as a centaur drawing a bow...

.
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Encyclopedia
Ursa Major also known as the Great Bear, is a constellation
Constellation
In modern astronomy, a constellation is an internationally defined area of the celestial sphere. These areas are grouped around asterisms, patterns formed by prominent stars within apparent proximity to one another on Earth's night sky....

 visible throughout the year in most of the northern hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

. It can best be seen in April. It is dominated by the widely recognized asterism
Asterism (astronomy)
In astronomy, an asterism is a pattern of stars recognized on Earth's night sky. It may form part of an official constellation, or be composed of stars from more than one. Like constellations, asterisms are in most cases composed of stars which, while they are visible in the same general direction,...

 known as the Big Dipper
Big Dipper
The Plough, also known as the Big Dipper or the Saptarishi , is an asterism of seven stars that has been recognized as a distinct grouping in many cultures from time immemorial...

 or Plough, which is a useful pointer toward north
North
North is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.North is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to east and west.By convention, the top side of a map is north....

, and which has mythological significance in numerous world cultures.

Asterisms


The seven brightest star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

s of Ursa Major form the asterism
Asterism (astronomy)
In astronomy, an asterism is a pattern of stars recognized on Earth's night sky. It may form part of an official constellation, or be composed of stars from more than one. Like constellations, asterisms are in most cases composed of stars which, while they are visible in the same general direction,...

 known as the Big Dipper
Big Dipper
The Plough, also known as the Big Dipper or the Saptarishi , is an asterism of seven stars that has been recognized as a distinct grouping in many cultures from time immemorial...

 in the United States and Canada, or the Plough in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

.

Another asterism is recognized in Arab culture, a series of three pairs of stars:
  • ν
    Nu Ursae Majoris
    Nu Ursae Majoris is a binary star in the constellation Ursa Major. It is approximately 400 light years from the Earth.The primary component, Nu Ursae Majoris A, is an orange K-type giant with an apparent magnitude of 3.5m...

     and ξ
    Xi Ursae Majoris
    Xi Ursae Majoris is a star system in the constellation Ursa Major. On May 2, 1780, Sir William Herschel discovered that this was a binary star system, making it the first such system ever discovered...

     Ursae Majoris, Alula Borealis and Australis, the "first leap";
  • λ
    Lambda Ursae Majoris
    Lambda Ursae Majoris is a star in the constellation Ursa Major. It also has the proper names Tania Borealis meaning "the Northern of Tania." The word Tania comes from the Arabic phrase al-Thāniyah meaning "the Second " , and Alkafzah...

     and μ
    Mu Ursae Majoris
    Mu Ursae Majoris is a star in the constellation Ursa Major. It also has the proper names Tania Australis meaning "the Southern of Tania." The word Tania comes from the Arabic phrase al-Thāniyah meaning "the Second " , Alkafzah...

     Ursae Majoris, Tania Borealis and Australis, the "second leap";
  • ι
    Iota Ursae Majoris
    Iota Ursae Majoris is a star system in the constellation Ursa Major. It is approximately 47.7 light years from Earth. It has the traditional names Talitha, Talitha Borealis and Alphikra Borealis, and was also named Dnoces after Edward H. White II, an Apollo 1 astronaut...

     and κ
    Kappa Ursae Majoris
    Kappa Ursae Majoris is a binary star in the constellation Ursa Major. It is approximately 423 light years from Earth and has the traditional names Talitha Australis, Al Kaprah, and Alphikra Australis....

     Ursae Majoris, Talitha Borealis and Australis, the "third leap".

These stars are found along the southwest border of the constellation.

Stars


Except for Dubhe and Alkaid, the stars of the Big Dipper all have proper motion
Proper motion
The proper motion of a star is its angular change in position over time as seen from the center of mass of the solar system. It is measured in seconds of arc per year, arcsec/yr, where 3600 arcseconds equal one degree. This contrasts with radial velocity, which is the time rate of change in...

s heading towards a common point in Sagittarius
Sagittarius (constellation)
Sagittarius is a constellation of the zodiac, the one containing the galactic center. Its name is Latin for the archer, and its symbol is , a stylized arrow. Sagittarius is commonly represented as a centaur drawing a bow...

. A few other such stars have been identified, and together they are called the Ursa Major Moving Group
Ursa Major Moving Group
The Ursa Major Moving Group, also known as Collinder 285 or Ursa Major association, is a nearby stellar moving group, a set of stars with common velocities in space and thought to have a common origin. Its core is located roughly 80 light years away...

.

Mizar
Mizar (star)
The Mizar–Alcor stellar sextuple system consists of the quadruple system Mizar and the binary system Alcor.- Description :Mizar is a quadruple system of two binary stars in the constellation Ursa Major and is the second star from the end of the Big Dipper's handle. Its apparent magnitude is 2.23...

, a star in the Big Dipper, forms the famous optical double star
Double star
In observational astronomy, a double star is a pair of stars that appear close to each other in the sky as seen from Earth when viewed through an optical telescope. This can happen either because the pair forms a binary star, i.e...

 with Alcor.

The stars Merak
Beta Ursae Majoris
Beta Ursae Majoris is a star in the constellation of Ursa Major. It has the traditional name Merak.It is more familiar to northern hemisphere observers as one of the "pointer stars" in the Big Dipper, and a straight line connecting it with nearby Alpha Ursae Majoris extends to Polaris, the north...

 (β Ursae Majoris) and Dubhe (α Ursae Majoris) are known as the "pointer stars" because they are helpful for finding Polaris
Polaris
Polaris |Alpha]] Ursae Minoris, commonly North Star or Pole Star, also Lodestar) is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor. It is very close to the north celestial pole, making it the current northern pole star....

, also known as the North Star. By visually tracing a line from Merak through Dubhe and continuing, one's eye will land on Polaris, accurately indicating true north.

W Ursae Majoris
W Ursae Majoris
W Ursae Majoris is a variable star in the constellation Ursa Major. It is an eclipsing contact binary whose two component stars share a common outer layer, and is the prototype of a class of contact binary variables known as W Ursae Majoris variables...

 is the prototype of a class of contact binary
Contact binary
In astronomy, a contact binary is a binary star system whose component stars are so close that they touch each other or have merged to share their gaseous envelopes. A binary system whose stars share an envelope may also be called an overcontact binary...

 variable star
Variable star
A star is classified as variable if its apparent magnitude as seen from Earth changes over time, whether the changes are due to variations in the star's actual luminosity, or to variations in the amount of the star's light that is blocked from reaching Earth...

s, and ranges between 7.75m
Apparent magnitude
The apparent magnitude of a celestial body is a measure of its brightness as seen by an observer on Earth, adjusted to the value it would have in the absence of the atmosphere...

and 8.48m.

47 Ursae Majoris
47 Ursae Majoris
47 Ursae Majoris is a solar analog, yellow dwarf star approximately 46 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Ursa Major. , it has been confirmed that three Jupiter-like extrasolar planets orbit the star...

 has a planetary system
Extrasolar planet
An extrasolar planet, or exoplanet, is a planet outside the Solar System. A total of such planets have been identified as of . It is now known that a substantial fraction of stars have planets, including perhaps half of all Sun-like stars...

 with two confirmed planets, 2.54 times and 0.76 times the mass of Jupiter
Jupiter
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest planet within the Solar System. It is a gas giant with mass one-thousandth that of the Sun but is two and a half times the mass of all the other planets in our Solar System combined. Jupiter is classified as a gas giant along with Saturn,...

.

Several bright galaxies
Galaxy
A galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system that consists of stars and stellar remnants, an interstellar medium of gas and dust, and an important but poorly understood component tentatively dubbed dark matter. The word galaxy is derived from the Greek galaxias , literally "milky", a...

 are found in Ursa Major, including the pair Messier 81
Messier 81
Messier 81 is a spiral galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. Due to its proximity to Earth, large size and active galactic nucleus Messier 81 (also known as NGC 3031 or Bode's Galaxy) is a spiral galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa...

 (one of the brightest galaxies in the sky) and Messier 82
Messier 82
Messier 82 is the prototype nearby starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major...

 above the bear's head, and Pinwheel Galaxy
Pinwheel Galaxy
The Pinwheel Galaxy is a face-on spiral galaxy distanced 21 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, first discovered by Pierre Méchain on March 27, 1781, and communicated to Charles Messier who verified its position for inclusion in the Messier Catalogue as one of its final...

 (M101), a beautiful spiral northeast of η Ursae Majoris
Eta Ursae Majoris
Eta Ursae Majoris is a star in the constellation Ursa Major. It has the traditional names Alkaid and Benetnash ....

. The other notable spiral galaxies Messier 108
Messier 108
Messier 108 is a barred spiral galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. It was discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781 or 1782. From the perspective of the Earth, this galaxy is seen almost edge-on....

 and Messier 109
Messier 109
Messier 109 is a barred spiral galaxy approximately away in the constellation Ursa Major. M109 can be seen southeast of the star Phecda .-History:Messier 109 was discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781...

 may also be found in this other constellation. Altogether, the constellation contains about 50 galaxies observable through an amateur
Amateur astronomy
Amateur astronomy, also called backyard astronomy and stargazing, is a hobby whose participants enjoy watching the night sky , and the plethora of objects found in it, mainly with portable telescopes and binoculars...

 telescope
Telescope
A telescope is an instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation . The first known practical telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 1600s , using glass lenses...

. The bright planetary nebula
Planetary nebula
A planetary nebula is an emission nebula consisting of an expanding glowing shell of ionized gas ejected during the asymptotic giant branch phase of certain types of stars late in their life...

 Owl Nebula
Owl Nebula
The Owl Nebula is a planetary nebula in the constellation Ursa Major. It was discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781....

 (M97), named for its appearance, can be found along the bottom of the bowl of the Big Dipper. Of note as a curiosity more than an interesting deep sky object is Messier 40
Winnecke 4
Winnecke 4 is a double star in the constellation Ursa Major. It was discovered by Charles Messier in 1764 while he was searching for a nebula that had been reported in the area by Johann Hevelius. Not seeing any nebulae, Messier catalogued this double star instead...

, a double star
Double star
In observational astronomy, a double star is a pair of stars that appear close to each other in the sky as seen from Earth when viewed through an optical telescope. This can happen either because the pair forms a binary star, i.e...

 that Messier nonetheless included in his catalogue.

The Hubble Deep Field
Hubble Deep Field
The Hubble Deep Field is an image of a small region in the constellation Ursa Major, constructed from a series of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. It covers an area 2.5 arcminutes across, two parts in a million of the whole sky, which is equivalent in angular size to a 65 mm tennis...

 is located to the northeast of δ Ursae Majoris
Delta Ursae Majoris
Delta Ursae Majoris is a star in the constellation Ursa Major. It has the traditional names Megrez , from the al-maghriz "the base [of the bear's tail]", and Kaffa....

.

History


Ursa Major was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

. It is mentioned by such poets as Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

, Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

, Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, Tennyson and Bertrand Cantat
Bertrand Cantat
Bertrand Lucien Bruno Cantat is a French singer and songwriter. He was the frontman for the rock band Noir Désir.-Career:Cantat was born in Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques. The son of a Navy officer, he spent his childhood in Le Havre...

. The Finnish epic Kalevala
Kalevala
The Kalevala is a 19th century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Finnish and Karelian oral folklore and mythology.It is regarded as the national epic of Finland and is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature...

 mentions it, Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent Willem van Gogh , and used Brabant dialect in his writing; it is therefore likely that he himself pronounced his name with a Brabant accent: , with a voiced V and palatalized G and gh. In France, where much of his work was produced, it is...

 painted it and Federico Garcia Lorca
Federico García Lorca
Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca was a Spanish poet, dramatist and theatre director. García Lorca achieved international recognition as an emblematic member of the Generation of '27. He is believed to be one of thousands who were summarily shot by anti-communist death squads...

 mentions in his poem "Song for the Moon" written August 1920.

Mythology


The constellation of Ursa Major has been seen as a bear
Bear
Bears are mammals of the family Ursidae. Bears are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinnipeds being their closest living relatives. Although there are only eight living species of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern...

 by many distinct civilizations. This may stem from a common oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

 stretching back more than 13,000 years.

In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, Zeus (the king of the gods) lusts after a young woman named Callisto
Callisto (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Callisto or Kallisto was a nymph of Artemis. Transformed into a bear and set among the stars, she was the bear-mother of the Arcadians, through her son Arcas.-Origin of the myth:...

, a nymph
Nymph
A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing;...

 of Artemis
Artemis
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

. Hera
Hera
Hera was the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow and the peacock were sacred to her...

, Zeus' jealous wife, transforms the beautiful Callisto into a bear. Callisto, while in bear form, later encounters her son Arcas
Arcas
In Greek mythology, Arcas was the son of Zeus and Callisto. Callisto was a nymph in the retinue of the goddess Artemis. Zeus, being a flirtatious god, wanted Callisto for a lover. As she would not be with anyone but Artemis, Zeus cunningly disguised himself as Artemis and seduced Callisto...

. Arcas almost shoots the bear, but to avert the tragedy, Zeus hurls them both into the sky, forming Ursa Major. In ancient times the name of the constellation was Helike, ("turning"), because it turns around the Pole. In Book Two of Lucan
Lucan
Lucan is the common English name of the Roman poet Marcus Annaeus Lucanus.Lucan may also refer to:-People:*Arthur Lucan , English actor*Sir Lucan the Butler, Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend...

 it is called Parrhasian Helice, since Callisto came from Parrhasia in Arcadia
Arcadia
Arcadia is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It takes its name from the mythological character Arcas. In Greek mythology, it was the home of the god Pan...

, where the story is set.

One of the few star groups mentioned in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 (Job 9:9; 38:32; Amos 5:8—Orion
Orion (constellation)
Orion, often referred to as The Hunter, is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and visible throughout the world. It is one of the most conspicuous, and most recognizable constellations in the night sky...

 and the Pleiades
Pleiades (star cluster)
In astronomy, the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters , is an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot B-type stars located in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky...

 being others), Ursa Major was also pictured as a bear by the Jewish peoples. ("The Bear" was translated as "Arcturus" in the Vulgate
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

 and it persisted in the KJV
King James Version of the Bible
The Authorized Version, commonly known as the King James Version, King James Bible or KJV, is an English translation of the Christian Bible by the Church of England begun in 1604 and completed in 1611...

.)

The Iroquois
Iroquois
The Iroquois , also known as the Haudenosaunee or the "People of the Longhouse", are an association of several tribes of indigenous people of North America...

 Native Americans interpreted Alioth, Mizar, and Alkaid as three hunters pursuing the Great Bear. According to one version of their myth, the first hunter (Alioth) is carrying a bow and arrow to sike down the bear. The second hunter (Mizar) carries a large pot — the star Alcor — on his shoulder in which to cook the bear while the third hunter (Alkaid) hauls a pile of firewood to light a fire beneath the pot.

In Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Ursa Major is known as Saptarshi
Saptarshi
The Saptarishi are the seven rishis who are extolled at many places in the Vedas and Hindu literature. The Vedic Samhitas never actually enumerate these rishis by name, though later Vedic texts such as the Brahmanas and Upanisads do so. They are regarded in the Vedas as the patriarchs of the...

, each of the stars representing one of the Saptarshis or Seven Sages viz. Bhrigu, Atri, Angirasa, Vasishta, Pulastya, Pulalaha and Kratu. The fact that the two front stars of the constellations point to the pole star
is explained as the boon given to the boy sage Dhruva by Lord Vishnu.

In Finnish language
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

, the asterism is sometimes called with its old Finnish name, Otava
Otava
Otava Publishing Company Ltd. is a major Finnish publisher of books. It was founded in 1890 and now is the second largest in Finland. It publishes fiction, non-fiction, books for teenagers and children, multimedia and teaching materials. The number of new titles a year exceeds 400...

. The meaning of the name has been almost forgotten in Modern Finnish; it means a salmon
Salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

 weir
Fishing weir
A fishing weir, or fish weir, is an obstruction placed in tidal waters or wholly or partially across a river, which is designed to hinder the passage of fish. Traditionally they were built from wood or stones. They can be used to trap fish...

.

In Burmese
Burmese language
The Burmese language is the official language of Burma. Although the constitution officially recognizes it as the Myanmar language, most English speakers continue to refer to the language as Burmese. Burmese is the native language of the Bamar and related sub-ethnic groups of the Bamar, as well as...

, Pucwan Tārā is the name of a constellation comprising stars from the head and forelegs of Ursa Major; pucwan is a general term for a crustacean
Crustacean
Crustaceans form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles. The 50,000 described species range in size from Stygotantulus stocki at , to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span...

, such as prawn
Prawn
Prawns are decapod crustaceans of the sub-order Dendrobranchiata. There are 540 extant species, in seven families, and a fossil record extending back to the Devonian...

, shrimp
Shrimp
Shrimp are swimming, decapod crustaceans classified in the infraorder Caridea, found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. Adult shrimp are filter feeding benthic animals living close to the bottom. They can live in schools and can swim rapidly backwards. Shrimp are an important...

, crab
Crab
True crabs are decapod crustaceans of the infraorder Brachyura, which typically have a very short projecting "tail" , or where the reduced abdomen is entirely hidden under the thorax...

, lobster
Lobster
Clawed lobsters comprise a family of large marine crustaceans. Highly prized as seafood, lobsters are economically important, and are often one of the most profitable commodities in coastal areas they populate.Though several groups of crustaceans are known as lobsters, the clawed lobsters are most...

, etc.

In theosophy
Theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

, it is believed the Seven Stars of the Pleiades focus the spiritual energy of the Seven Rays from the Galactic Logos to the Seven Stars of the Great Bear, then to Sirius
Sirius
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. The name "Sirius" is derived from the Ancient Greek: Seirios . The star has the Bayer designation Alpha Canis Majoris...

, then to the Sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

, then to the god of Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 (Sanat Kumara
Sanat Kumara
According to the post-1900 publications of Theosophy, i.e. the writings of C. W. Leadbeater, Alice A. Bailey, and Benjamin Creme, as well as the Ascended Master Teachings of Guy Ballard, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Geraldine Innocente, Joshua David Stone, and other Ascended Master Teachings teachers,...

), and finally through the seven Masters of the Seven Rays
Ascended master
Ascended Masters, in the Ascended Master Teachings is derived from the Theosophical concept of Masters of the Ancient Wisdom or "Mahatmas", though they differ in important aspects...

 to the human race
Human Race
Human Race refers to the Human species.Human race may also refer to:*The Human Race, 79th episode of YuYu Hakusho* Human Race Theatre Company of Dayton Ohio* Human Race Machine, a computer graphics device...

.

In South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

, the constellation is referred to as "the seven stars of the north". In the related myth, a widow with seven sons found comfort with a widower, but to get to his house required crossing a stream. The seven sons, sympathetic to their mother, placed stepping stones in the river. Their mother, not knowing who put the stones in place, blessed them and, when they died, they became the constellation.

In Javanese
Javanese language
Javanese language is the language of the Javanese people from the central and eastern parts of the island of Java, in Indonesia. In addition, there are also some pockets of Javanese speakers in the northern coast of western Java...

, as known as "Bintang Kartika". This name comes from Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 which refers "krttikã" the same star cluster. In ancient Java
Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

, this star clusters so popular because its emergence into the start time marker for planting.

In Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

, the 7 largest stars of Ursa Major belongs to Amenominakanushi
Amenominakanushi
In Japanese mythology and Shintoism, Amenominakanushi was the first kami to come into being in the Plain of Heaven as a "solitary kami" . He was acknowledged as one of the zōka sanshin and one of the five kotoamatsukami .Amenominakanushi is found at the very beginning of the Kojiki...

, the oldest and most powerful of all kami.

Graphic visualisation


In European star charts, the constellation was visualized with the 'square' of the Big Dipper forming the bear's body and the chain of stars as a long tail. However, bears do not have long tails, and Jewish astronomers considered Alioth, Mizar, and Alkaid instead to be either three cubs following their mother, and the Native Americans as three hunters.

Noted children's book author H. A. Rey
H. A. Rey
Hans Augusto "H.A." Rey , worked with his wife Margret Rey as authors and illustrators of children's books. They were best known for their Curious George series.-Curious George Book Series:Hans and Margret were both Jewish and of German birth...

, in his 1952 book The Stars: A New Way to See Them, (ISBN 0-395-24830-2) instead had the "bear" image of the constellation, much as Johannes Hevelius had done (as far as the figure of the bear facing "left"), oriented with Alkaid as the tip of the bear's nose, and the "handle" of the Big Dipper part of the constellation forming the outline of the top of the bear's head and neck, rearwards to the shoulder. Because of Rey's book, many amateur astronomers have come to accept Rey's star chart interpretation of Ursa Major, dropping the idea of the Big Dipper's "handle" as being the hind end of the bear, with a non-natural "tail" extending rearwards.

Further reading

  • Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion (2007). Stars and Planets Guide, Collins, London. ISBN 978-0007251209. Princeton University Press, Princeton. ISBN 978-0691135564.

External links