Ursa Major

Ursa Major

Abbreviation:  UMa
English Name:  The Great Bear
Genitive: Dubhe
Hemisphere:  Northern Hemisphere
Location: Between the constellations of Canes Venatici and Lynx.
Visible between latitudes:  
+90 and -30 degrees
Best season: Spring
Seen in three seasons: Winter, Spring and Summer.
Best seen in:  Circumpolar, better in April. (This constellation of Ursa Major stays in the Sky all the year.)
Seen between: April
Right Ascension (RA):  11 hour
Declination (DEC):  +50 degrees
Area (square degrees):  1,280 (3rd)

Ursa Major  (The Great Bear)

  • Famous the seven stars forming the asterism known as `The Plough`, sometimes, `The Big Dipper` are known well to nearly everyone living in Northern Hemisphere.
  • It contains no open clusters or diffuse nebula because of far away from the galactic plane, it does have many galaxies (although many of them are faint), including several Messier Objects (M81, M82, M101, M108 and M109) as well as M97 – Owl Nebula (Planetary Nebula).
  • Usra Major Moving Cluster, also known as Collinder 285 (C285), all stars in Moving Cluster, except for Dubhe and Alkaid, are moving in roughly the same direction at roughly the same speed through the space.
  • Using two stars; Dubhe (α) and Merak (β), which is useful pointer toward North (Polaris at Ursa Minor).

Messier Objects

  • M40  –  Two stars; known as Winnecke 4 or WNC 4, Charles Messier was searched for any nebula, he was mistake to spot its as nebula, really he saw was a double star – very near each other and very small. They have always appeared as a wide pair to observers with better telescopes to compare Charlies Messier’s telescope in the past. (Magnitude:- +9.6 and 10.1)
  • M81  –  Spiral Galaxy; also known as Bode’s Galaxy or NGC 3031, visible in binoculars and appearing extremely large, elongated with extremely bright nucleus. (Magnitude: +6.9)
  • M82  – Believed to be an Irregular Galaxy; also known as Cigar Galaxy (NGC 3034), along with M81 – very bright, large and very elongated; spindle-shaped as cigar!  It is detectable in binoculars as a faint elongated object, and shows slighty more detail with large telescopes. (Magnitude: +8.4)
  • M97  –  Planetary Nebula; also known as The Owl Nebula – resembles the face of an owl with two dark “eyes” but not visible in binoculars, appearing as bluish disk with 4-inch telescopes. A telescope of 8-inch or more is required to show some structure. (Magnitude: +9.9)
  • M101  –  face-on Spiral Galaxy; also known as Pinwheel Galaxy – detectable in binoculars, because of face-on but its arms are not readily visible with amateur equipment and appears as a faint elliptical halo. (Magnitude: +7.7)
  • M108  –  Barred Spiral Galaxy; bright, very large and very elongated; nearly edge-on but no visible nucleus – easy to mistake for a supernova. (Magnitude: +10.0)
  • M109  –  Barred Spiral Galaxy; the prominent central bar is easy to detect with small telescopes, although it requires good seeing, even from 8-inch telescopes. (Magnitude: +9.8)

Features of Interest

  • NGC 4501  –  Spiral Galaxy; also known as Messier 88 (M88), on the border with Canes Venatici, bright nebulous glow because of the extended spiral arms, only the nucleus is readily detectable with smaller than 8-inch telescopes.
  • NGC 4088  –  Spiral Galaxy; the outer regions become visible only with 8-inch or more telescopes. (Photo: Paired with fainter galaxy NGC 4085 on the right.)

Named Stars

  • Dubhe (Alpha UMa)
  • Merak (Beta UMa)
  • Phad (Gamma UMa)
  • Megrez (Delta UMa)
  • Alioth (Epsilon UMa)
  • Mizar (Zeta UMa)
  • AlkaidL (Eta UMa)
  • Talitha (Iota UMa)
  • Tania Borealis (Lambda UMa)
  • Tania Australis (Mu UMa)
  • Alula Borealis (Nu UMa)
  • Alula Australis (Xi UMa)
  • Muscida (Omicron UMa)
  • Muscida (Pi 1 UMa)
  • Muscida (Pi 2 UMa)
  • ALCOR (80 UMa)


  • Photo of the constellation; Ursa Major, as it appears to the naked eye. (Lines have been added for clarity.)
  • Sky Chart  –  Ursa Major
  • List of stars in Ursa Major.


Back to The 88 Constellations Lists  page.


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