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Ursa Minor

Ursa Minor

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GenitiveUrsae Minoris
Meaning in EnglishLittle Bear
Right ascension15 h
Visible to latitudeBetween 90° and -10°
On meridian9 p.m., June 25
 - Total
Ranked 56th
256 sq. deg.
Number of stars with
apparent magnitude < 3
Brightest star
 - Apparent magnitude
Meteor showers None
Bordering constellations

Ursa Minor is a constellation in the northern sky, whose name means the "Lesser Bear" in Latin. It is one of the 88 modern constellations, and was also one of the 48 listed by Ptolemy. It is notable as the location of the north celestial pole, although this will change after some centuries due to the effects of precession.

Notable features Ursa Minor contains an asterism colloquially known as the "Little Dipper" because its brightest stars seem to form a ladle, or dipper shape. The star at the end of the dipper handle is Polaris, the "North" or "Pole 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, a nearby asterism found in the constellation Ursa Major.

Mythology One of Artemis' companions, Callisto, lost her virginity to Zeus, who had come disguised as Artemis. Enraged, Artemis changed her into a bear. Callisto's son, Arcas, nearly killed his mother while hunting, but Zeus or Artemis stopped him and placed them both in the sky as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

Hera was not please with the placement of Callisto and Arcas in the sky, so she asked her nurse, Tethys, to help. Tethys, a marine goddess, cursed the constellations to forever circle the sky and never drop below the horizon, hence explaining why they are circumpolar.

History This constellation is said to be introduced in the 6th century B.C. by the Greek astronomer Thales, but was certainly already used as a guide by sailors. In ancient time, Ursa Minor was named the Dragon's wing, an old constellation, now long forgotten. To many cultures Ursa Minor was the Hole in which the earth's axle found its bearing.

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