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Constellations: Ursa Major - Windows to the Universe

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The constellation Ursa Major can be seen near the Celestial North Pole all year long.
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Ursa Major

Ursa Major is a very famous constellation. It is also called the Great Bear. Ursa Minor is the Little Bear. The body and tail of the Big Bear make up the Big Dipper. There are a lot of myths about this constellation.

The Greeks say that Zeus was in love with Callisto. When his wife, Hera, found out, she turned Callisto into a bear. Zeus put her in the sky with her son Arcas, who is the Little Bear. Some Native Americans thought the bear was being chased by three hunters. The hunters were the three stars in the handle of the dipper.

There are lots of neat objects to look at in Ursa Major. The two stars that make up the right edge of the "bowl" of the dipper are pointer stars. If you connect them with a line and extend it North, you will run into the North Star, Polaris. There are two galaxies above the bear's head, called M81 and M82. M81 is one of the brightest galaxies you can see without a telescope.

Just below the star Dubhe, which is the lower pointer star, is the Owl Nebula. Some images show what looks like a pair of eyes. Ursa Major is circumpolar, which means you can see it all year long. So, go outside and find this huge constellation tonight!

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