The constellation known as Ursa Major has several names. In the United States it is known as “the Great Shell”; in France it is “the Great Pot” or “Casserole”; in Britain “the Plow”; the ancient Egyptians saw a procession formed by a bull, a horizontal man and a hippopotamus; in Medieval Europe it was known as “the Chariot” or “Charles’s Wagon”. These different names show that the stars that make up this constellation can be joined with imaginary lines creating well-differentiated figures. Big Dipper
The ancient Greeks and the native peoples of North America saw a large bear in this group of stars. Astronomy followers called it “the Car”. In astronomical terminology the figures associated with star constellations are known by the term asterism.
Curiosities about the Big Dipper
In the northern hemisphere it is visible all year round and near the equator it can be observed from April to June. This constellation has the most famous double star in the heavens: Mizar and Alcor. Big Dipper
The Bode galaxy or M81 is found in the constellation Ursa Major, a spiral galaxy located about twelve million light years from Earth and is widely studied by astronomers (this galaxy is estimated to have about 250 million stars) .
Like other asterisms, this was of great importance in the history of navigation (Homer’s Odyssey reminds us that Odysseus watched this constellation at night so as not to lose his way back home).
This constellation formed by seven main stars was already known by men of the Paleolithic period, in this sense, it is believed that their observation was decisive for human beings to cross the Bering Strait and reach the American continent . Big Dipper
In Greek mythology, the god Zeus seduced a nymph named Callisto who lived in the forests of Arcadia. When Zeus’ wife Hera heard about her husband’s infidelity, she was so jealous and so angry at her rival that she decided to turn her into a bear and send her to heaven forever.
This mythological account in which a character becomes a star is an example of catasterism (in such a process , the characters or events in mythology end up becoming constellations because there is a similarity between the figure in the starry sky and the mythological story).
Some of Ursa Major’s Best-Known Stars
On the animal ‘s back is the star Merak (the ancient Greeks knew it as Helike, in China it is the armillary sphere and for the Hindus it was Pulaba).
The Precda star corresponds to the bear’s thigh.
The tail principle is Megrez. Talitha Borealis and Talitha Australis are the names of the stars that correspond to the bear’s legs.
The asterism that makes up Ursa Major has a total of seven stars. Big Dipper