The Great Bear Constellation

Ursa major

Why is it called Ursa major?

Its called the Ursa major because that is the Latin name for "great bear". See the topic "history of the constellation" for details on its history.

history of the constellation

The constellation Ursa Major contains the group of stars commonly called the Big Dipper. The handle of the Dipper is the Great Bear's tail and the Dipper's cup is the Bear's flank. The Big Dipper is not a constellation itself, but an asterism, which is a distinctive group of stars.


  • Ursa Major is visible all year in the Northern hemisphere.
  • The constellation is partially visible in some northerly regions of the Southern hemisphere.
  • Ursa Major is Latin for Great Bear, although the constellation is based on Greek mythology.
  • Ursa Major is associated with the nearby constellation of Ursa Minor (Little Bear).
  • The very recognizable Big Dipper, also known as The Plough, is part of the Ursa Major constellation.
  • The Big Dipper is an asterism, which are stars which form simple patterns but are not constellations.
  • The two stars which form the outer bowl of the Big Dipper point towards the North Star, Polaris.
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