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Ursa Major, The Big Bear Constellation Facts and Mythology

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 20 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.

The distance to Ursa Major is not calculable because all the stars that make up the constellation are at various distances. The best answer for distance to Ursa Major is to calculate the average distance of the stars.

There are 27 Extrasolar Planets (Exoplanets) in this constellation that are detailed on this site. There is a dedicated page for exoplanets in Ursa Major. The current largest star so far identified in the constellation of Ursa Major is Polaris.

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.

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, 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, 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, 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.

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.

Ursa Major Facts

NameUrsa Major
Is a Zodiac Sign No
Largest StarPolaris
Brightest StarAlioth
Area1279.66 sq. deg.
Percentage of Night Sky3.1%
Size Position3rd
Hemisphere Northern
Site Exoplanet Count27
Meteor Shower Count26
Nearest StarLalande 21185
Nearest Star with Exoplanet(s)Lalande 21185
Largest StarPolaris
Brightest StarAlioth
Dimmest StarHIP 40889
Furthest StarHIP 50917
Bright Star Count122
Hipparcos Star Count3546
Main Star Count20
Messier Deep Space Object Count8
*Non-Messier Deep Space Object Count2
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)Galaxy47.84 Million LY53` 04` 04.1811h 32m 34m 940
Bode's Galaxy (M81, NGC3031Spiral Galaxy11,400-12,200 kly+69:0409h 55m 6
Cigar Galaxy (M82, NGC3034)Irregular Galaxy10,700-12,300 kly+69:41`09h 55m 8
GN-z11Galaxy32 Billion Light Years62d 14' 31.412h 36m 25m 46
Messier 108 (NGC3556)Spiral Galaxy46000000+55:4011h 11m 5
Messier 109 (NGC3992)Spiral Galaxy59,500-107,500 kly+53:2311h 57m 6
NGC 2787Lenticular Galaxy24+69:1209h 19h 18m 5
NGC 3982Intermediate Spiral Galaxy68+55:7.3111h 56m 28
Owl Nebula (M97, NGC3587)Planetary Nebula2030+55:0111h 14m 8
Pinwheel Galaxy (M101, NGC5457)Spiral Galaxy19,100-22,400 kly+54:2114h 03m 2
Spindle Galaxy (M102)Spiral Galaxy ( Maybe 101 )50000000+55:4615h 06m 5
Winnecke 4 (M40)Double Star510+58:0512h 22m 4

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