Universe Guide

Ursa Major, The Big Bear Constellation

Ursa Major Constellation Star Map

Ursa Major (Pronounciation:Ur-sar May-jore, Abbrev:UMa, Latin:Ursae Majoris) is a constellation, one of 88 constellations that the night sky is divided into. The sky is not divided up equally between the constellations. Ursa Major takes up 1279.66 sq. degrees of the night sky which equates to 3.1% of the night sky. Ursa Major is the 3rd largest in terms of size in the night sky.

The constellation name means The Big Bear . The constellation is one of the original constellations that was devised by the Ancient Greco-Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy who lived between 90 A.D. and 168 A.D.

There are 19 stars that make up the main constellation. The hipparcos satellite scanned and detailed 3546 stars. There are 122 stars that can be seen with the naked eye in the constellation on a very clear night sky.

Ursa Major is not a member of the Zodiac group of twelve constellations that appear when the Sun sets. Ursa Major is a northern hemispheric constellation which means it can't be seen easily or at all from the southern hemisphere.

There are 28 Extrasolar Planets (Exoplanets) in this constellation that are detailed on this site. There is a dedicated page for exoplanets in Ursa Major.

There are 8 deep space objects that were identified by Charles Messier in this constellation. There are 2 non-Messier deep space objects that are covered on this site and the list is below.

The image at the top right of this page was generated using Night Vision, a free to use and download application by Brian Simspon.

Distance to Ursa Major

You can't just go to one location and arrive at the constellation because the constellation is made up of stars at different locations and different distances. The nearest main star in the constellation is at a distance of 43.96 light years and the furthest main star is a distance of 508.84 light years. The average distance to the main stars is 161.12 light years.

Ursa Major Star Facts

The caveat of these stars are that they are catalogued on this site. If you know of a star that is nearer or further then do let me know in the comments and I'll add it to the site. The stars mentioned are from the Hipparcos catalogue or have been added because of their special status.

Lalande 21185, Ursa Major's Nearest Star

The nearest star to Earth is Lalande 21185 which is roughly about 8.31 Light Years from the Earth. Lalande 21185 is also the nearest star in the constellation of Ursa Major with at least one orbiting exoplanet.

HIP 50917, Ursa Major's Furthest Star

The furthest star that is located in the constellation is HIP 50917 and it is 326163.3 light years away from the Sun. The furthest figure is derived from either the 1997 or 2007 Hipparcos star catalogue parallax figure and it has been known to produce distances that are wrong.

Alioth, Brightest Star in Ursa Major

The brightest star in Ursa Major is Alioth and is located about 128.87 light years from the Sun. The star has a apparent magnitude of 1.76 but an absolute magnitude of -0.26 when the star is viewed from a distance of 10 Parsecs or 32.6 Light Years. The star is only recognised as being Epsilon Ursae Majoris rather than having Alpha status.

HIP 40889, Ursa Major's Dimmest Visible Star

The dimmest star that can be seen in Ursa Major with the naked eye is HIP 40889. The dim star has an apparent magnitude of 6. The dimmest star that a person is able to see with their naked eye is 6.0 magnitude based on the table in the reference. Ref: University of Michigan.


The star is a zombie star, this means it will explode in a supernova and then come as back as normal. What marks IPTF14HLS out as special is that it has gone through the supernova process and come back to life on multiple occasions. Its supernova explosions are too far away to have any effect on us here on Earth.

M82 x2

M82 x2 is a pulsar and one that breaks the Eddington Limit. The Eddington Limit is a theoretical limit on how bright a star should be for its given mass. It is named after Sir Arthur Eddington who devised the limit in the first part of the twentieth century.

How to Find and View Ursa Major in the Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

The more norrth you are, the more likely you are to get a good glimpse of this object. In London, you will be able to see this constellation all year round. The worst time is October and November when it is ats lowest in the sky. If you can stay up late, it is best to see about 11pm in May. May to September provide for a good view about 10 p.m if you can stay up later.

Southern Hemisphere

The constellation is predominantly a northern hemisphere constellation so if you don't get to see it, you know why. You will not be able to see this constellation if you are in Sydney. You would need to move a little more north. You are able to see this constellation on the horizon clear from April at about 9 p.m. If you want to see it earlier, you would need to stay up a little late. The constellation is visible from a north-easterly direction. The constellation will start disappearing in June.

Ursa Major Mythology

Zeus had a son (Arcas) with Callisto. In a fit of rage, Hera turned Callisto into a bear. When Arcas nearly killed his mother as he didn't know who she was, Zeus turned Arcas into a bear Ursa Minor and sent them to the stars.

Meteor Showers Radiating from Ursa Major

There are 26 Meteor Showers that occur during the year within this constellation based on information gathered from Adam Mickiewicz University (Poland). The list below are major ones and which I have a date period for.

NameActivityPeak ActivityClosest Star
nu Ursae Majorids15th May  

List of Main Stars in Ursa Major

The following list contains the stars that make up the constellation. For a larger list of stars in the entire constellation area, please visit the For a list of named stars, that is stars that don't start HD or HIP, please visit Ursa Major Star List page.

NameBayerDistance (Lt.Yr.)Right AscensionDeclinationSpectral TypeColour
DubheAlpha Ursae Majoris122.9011h 03m 43.84+61d 45` 04.0F7V compYellow/White
MerakBeta Ursae Majoris79.7511h 01m 50.39+56d 22` 56.4A1VWhite
PhecdaGamma Ursae Majoris83.1811h 53m 49.74+53d 41` 41.0A0V SBWhite
MegrezDelta Ursae Majoris80.5112h 15m 25.45+57d 01` 57.4A3VvarWhite
AliothEpsilon Ursae Majoris82.5512h 54m 01.63+55d 57` 35.4A0pWhite
AlkaidEta Ursae Majoris103.9413h 47m 32.55+49d 18` 47.9B3V SBBlue/White
SarirTheta Ursae Majoris43.9609h 32m 52.33+51d 40` 43.0F6IVYellow/White
TalithaIota Ursae Majoris47.3208h 59m 12.84+48d 02` 32.5A7IVWhite
AlkaphrahKappa Ursae Majoris358.4209h 03m 37.56+47d 09` 24.0A1VnWhite
Tania BorealisLambda Ursae Majoris137.5110h 17m 05.93+42d 54` 52.1A2IVWhite
Tania AustralisMu Ursae Majoris230.3410h 22m 19.80+41d 29` 58.0M0III SBRed
Alula BorealisNu Ursae Majoris399.2211h 18m 28.76+33d 05` 39.3K3III SBOrange
MuscidaOmicron Ursae Majoris179.1108h 30m 16.03+60d 43` 06.4G4II-IIIYellow
Upsilon Ursae MajorisUpsilon Ursae Majoris116.2409h 50m 59.69+59d 02` 20.8F0IVYellow/White
Phi Ursae MajorisPhi Ursae Majoris508.8409h 52m 06.36+54d 03` 51.4A3IVWhite
TaiyangshouChi Ursae Majoris183.6511h 46m 03.13+47d 46` 45.6K0IIIOrange
Psi Ursae MajorisPsi Ursae Majoris144.5111h 09m 39.86+44d 29` 54.8K1IIIOrange
Alcor81.7213h 25m 13.42+54d 59` 16.8A5V SBWhite
23 Ursae Majoris77.6809h 31m 31.57+63d 03` 42.5F0IVYellow/White

Ursa Major Facts

NameUrsa Major
Is a Zodiac Sign No
Brightest StarAlioth
Area1279.66 sq. deg.
Percentage of Night Sky3.1%
Size Position3rd
Hemisphere Northern
Site Exoplanet Count28
Meteor Shower Count26
Nearest StarLalande 21185
Nearest Star with Exoplanet(s)Lalande 21185
Brightest StarAlioth
Dimmest StarHIP 40889
Furthest StarHIP 50917
Bright Star Count122
Hipparcos Star Count3546
Main Star Count19
Messier Deep Space Object Count8
Bordering / Neighbouring / Surrounding ConstellationsDraco
Leo Minor
Coma Berenices
Canes Venatici

*Note: The number of Non-Messier Deep Space Object Count relates to how many are covered on this site not how many there are.

List of Deep Space Objects (Galaxies, Nebulas, Supernovas, etc) in Ursa Major

NameTypeDistanceDeclinationRight Ascension
ARP 214 (NGC3178)Galaxy47,840,00053` 04` 04.1811h 32m 34m 940
Bode's Galaxy (M81, NGC3031)Spiral Galaxy11,400,000 -12,200,0+69:0409h 55m 6
Cigar Galaxy (M82, NGC3034)Irregular Galaxy10,700,000 - 12,300,+69:41`09h 55m 8
GN-z11Galaxy32,000,000,00062d 14' 31.412h 36m 25m 46
Messier 108 (NGC3556)Spiral Galaxy46000000+55:4011h 11m 5
Messier 109 (NGC3992)Spiral Galaxy59,500,000 - 107,500+53:2311h 57m 6
NGC 2768Seyfert Galaxy+60 02 13.9509 11 37m 504
NGC 2787Lenticular Galaxy24+69:1209h 19h 18m 5
NGC 2841Unbarred Spiral Galaxy30,000,000+50:58:3509h 22h 02m 6
NGC 3077Small Galaxy (Peculiar)12,800,00068:44:0210h 03h 19m 1
NGC 3471Galaxy in a Group of Galaxies+61 31 49.6310 59 09m 016
NGC 3550Lenticular Galaxy+28 46 02.211 10 38m 26
NGC 3558Lenticular Galaxy+28 32 37.4411 10 55m 843
NGC 3718Galaxy in a Pair of Galaxies+53 04 04.49431363411 32 34m 8527469396
NGC 3726Galaxy in a Group of Galaxies+47 01 45.26062762211 33 21m 1357515876
NGC 3938Galaxy in a Group of Galaxies+44 07 14.6311 52 49m 453
NGC 3953Galaxy in a Group of Galaxies+52 19 36.47377712611 53 49m 0087614111
NGC 3972Galaxy in a Pair of Galaxies+55 19 14.4211 55 45m 117
NGC 3982Intermediate Spiral Galaxy68+55:7.3111h 56m 28
NGC 4096Galaxy in a Group of Galaxies+47 28 42.0912 06 01m 161
NGC 4290Radio Galaxy+58 05 33.32107433812 20 47m 4367409457
NGC4013Spiral Galaxy60,000,000+43 56 49.2811 58 31m 417
Owl Nebula (M97, NGC3587)Planetary Nebula2030+55:0111h 14m 8
Pinwheel Galaxy (M101, NGC5457)Spiral Galaxy19,100,000 - 22,400,+54:2114h 03m 2
SN 1993JSupernova Remnant+69 01 13.702609 55 24m 77476
SN 2011FESupernova Remnant+54 16 25.2214 03 05m 711
UGC 4459Galaxy in a Group of Galaxies+66 10 54.608 34 07m 29
Winnecke 4 (M40)Star Cluster (Double Star)510+58:0512h 22m 4

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