Skip to main content
Select Source:

Ursa Major and Ursa Minor

Ursa Major and Ursa Minor [Lat.,=the great bear; the little bear], two conspicuous northern constellations. Known to many peoples from ancient times, these constellations have had various names; the configuration of the seven brightest stars has been called the Bear, Septentriones (the seven plowing oxen), the Plow, Charles's Wain, and the Wagon. Ursa Minor was once known as Cynosura (from the Greek for "dog's tail" ). In the United States part of Ursa Major is called the Big Dipper (or the Drinking Gourd) and part of Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper. Four of the seven bright stars in the Big Dipper form the bowl and three the handle; five of these stars are of second magnitude. The middle star in the handle of the Big Dipper is Mizar (Zeta Ursae Majoris). A fainter star, Alcor, which appears to be near Mizar, was observed from ancient times. These two stars are sometimes called a double star, but since they do not revolve around a common center of gravity they are not true doubles. Mizar itself is, however, a visual binary star and was the first to be recognized as such—by G. B. Riccioli in 1650. It was also the first spectroscopic binary to be discovered; this observation resulted from studies of the spectrum of the brighter component of Mizar, which revealed it as a binary consisting of a pair of stars of almost equal brightness. The two end stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper are known as the Pointers. A line extending through them to about five times the distance between them leads to the polestar (Polaris, or the North Star). Polaris is at the extreme end of the Little Dipper. Including Polaris there are three stars in the handle of the Little Dipper and four forming the bowl. The handles of the two Dippers extend in opposite directions, and when one bowl is upright the other is inverted. Ursa Major reaches its highest point in the evening sky in April and Ursa Minor its highest point in June. However, for observers in the middle and northern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere both constellations are circumpolar and thus are visible throughout the year.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ursa Major and Ursa Minor." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ursa Major and Ursa Minor." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ursa-major-and-ursa-minor

"Ursa Major and Ursa Minor." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ursa-major-and-ursa-minor

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ursa Major

Ur·sa Ma·jor / ˈərsə ˈmājər/ Astron. one of the largest and most prominent northern constellations (the Great Bear). The seven brightest stars form a familiar asterism known by various names (esp. the Big Dipper and the Plow) and include the Pointers. ∎  [as genitive] (Ur·sae Ma·jor·is / ˈərsē məˈjôris/ ) used with a preceding letter or numeral to designate a star in this constellation: the star Delta Ursae Majoris.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ursa Major." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ursa Major." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/ursa-major-0

"Ursa Major." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/ursa-major-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ursa Major

Ursa Major one of the largest and most prominent northern constellations (the Great Bear). The seven brightest stars form a familiar formation variously called the Plough, Big Dipper, or Charles's Wain, and include the Pointers.

Boswell's father, Lord Auchinleck (1706–82) gave the name Ursa Major to Dr Johnson.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ursa Major." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ursa Major." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/ursa-major

"Ursa Major." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/ursa-major

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ursa Major

Ursa Major (Great Bear) Northern constellation, whose main pattern, consisting of seven stars, is known as the Plough or Big Dipper. Five of the Plough stars make up a cluster.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ursa Major." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ursa Major." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ursa-major

"Ursa Major." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ursa-major

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.