Northern Constellations

The northern constellations are visible throughout the entire year. Examples of such are The Big Bear and The Little Bear, Draco, Cassiopeia, etc. They are visible from most parts of the northern hemisphere.

The Two Bears

Looking north you can find two of the most famous constellations – The Big Bear and the Little Bear. These two northern constellations are also known as the Big and The Little Dipper, because of the arrangement of their main stars. Their Latin names are Ursa Major (UMa) and Ursa Minor (UMi) respectively.


The photo above shows the Big and the Little Dipper. At the end of the Little Dipper is Polaris. This star points at north all the time and does not move on the sky during the night, because it is located in the north celestial pole. When you need to find where north is, you could always use the two Bears to locate Polaris. Because of their close proximity to the north celestial pole, Uma and Umi always stay above the horizon (unless you leave close to the equator), and can also be observed during the entire year. When you go out to observe the night sky in the evening, try to see what their orientation, with respect to the horizon, will be and how it changes each season. You will notice that The Little Bear rotates around Polaris and The Big Bears revolves around it as well. In Uma, you could also find the famous binary system Mizar and Alcor.

Finding Polaris may not always be easy if you are not very familiar with the night sky. Keep in mind that the stars that form The Little Dipper are not very bright. A useful trick to know is to use the other Bear. You can use the pointer stars in the bowl of The Big Dipper. Extend the line connecting these two stars approximately five times and you will find Polaris.


Another northern constellation that is also located in the same region is Draco the dragon. Its tale ends right between the two Bears. There are a lot of myths about why this constellation gained its place on the sky. Naturally, in most of them an ancient hero kills the dragon :).



Cassiopeia is another northern constellation that is also close to the north celestial pole. Its “W” shape is easily recognizable on the sky. The legend says that Cassiopeia was a queen (wife of king Cepheus) that was very beautiful. Cassiopeia claimed that she and her daughter Andromeda were more beautiful than the daughter of the sea god Nereus. This statement angered the ruling god of the sea, Poseidon, who decided to destroy the kingdom of Ethiopia by sending the monster Cetus. An oracle advised Cepheus and Cassiopeia to sacrifice their daughter, Andromeda, in order to save their kingdom. They chained her to a rock in the sea where Andromeda waited her fate. Right before Cetus killed her, the hero Perseus arrived, killed the monster and saved Andromeda. Shortly after they got married. At the end, Poseidon punished Cassiopeia by placing her on the sky in such position, close to the celestial pole, that she is upside-down half of the time. King Cepheus is a constellation on the sky near his wife Cassiopeia. Andromeda and Perseus also found their place on the sky.


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