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Facts about The Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) for Kids

Ursa Minor, also known as the Little Bear, is a constellation in the northern sky. Like the Great Bear, the tail of the Little Bear may also be seen as the handle of a ladle, hence the name Little Dipper. Ursa Minor is notable as the location of the north celestial pole, although this will change after some centuries due to the precession of the equinoxes.

Ursa Minor is colloquially known as the Little Dipper because its seven brightest stars seem to form the shape of a dipper (ladle or scoop).

  • Polaris can also be found by following a line through the two stars that form the end of the “bowl” of the Big Dipper, a nearby asterism found in the constellation Ursa Major.
  • Hence, they provide an easy guide to determining what magnitude stars are visible, useful for city dwellers or testing one’s eyesight.
  • The six named stars of Ursa Minor are the following: Polaris (α UMi), the brightest star in the constellation, is a ‘yellow-white’ supergiant shining at 2.02 apparent magnitude.
  • Kochab (β UMi) is only slightly less bright than Polaris.
  • Kochab 126.4 ± 2.5 light years from the Sun, and is 130 times more luminous than the Sun, at a surface temperature of approximately 4,000 K. Ursa Minor is rather devoid of many deep-sky objects.
  • A notable object is the Ursa Minor Dwarf, a dwarf galaxy, located in the area of the constellation.
  • Ursa Minor and Ursa Major were related by the Greeks to the myth of Callisto and Arcas. However, in a variant of the story, in which it is Boötes that represents Arcas, Ursa Minor represents a dog. In early Greek mythology, the seven stars of the Little Dipper were the Hesperides, daughters of Atlas.
  • Together with the nearby constellations of Boötes, Ursa Major, and Draco, it may have formed the origin of the myth of the apples of the Hesperides, which forms part of the Labours of Hercules.
  • In Hungarian mythology the constellation is called ‘Little Goncol cart’ (Göncöl szekér) after a legendary shaman.