Universe Guide

Merak (Beta Ursae Majoris, 48 Ursae Majoris) Star Facts

Merak Facts

  • Merak is a main sequence star that can be located in the constellation of Ursa Major. The description is based on the spectral class.
  • Merak is a main star of the constellation outline.
  • Based on the spectral type (A1V) of the star, the star's colour is blue - white .
  • Merak is the 80th brightest star in the night sky and the 5th brightest star in Ursa Major based on the Hipparcos 2007 apparent magnitude. The star can be seen with the naked eye, that is, you don't need a telescope/binoculars to see it.
  • Using the most recent figures given by the 2007 Hipparcos data, the star is 79.75 light years away from us. Distance

Merak's Alternative Names

Beta Ursae Majoris (Bet Uma) is the Bayer Classification for the star. The Bayer Classification was created by Johann Bayer in 1603. The brightest star in the constellation is normally given the Alpha designation, there are exceptions such as Pollux which is Beta Geminorum.

The Id of the star in the Yale Bright Star Catalogue is HR4295. HIP53910 is the reference name for the star in the Hipparcos Star Catalogue. The Id of the star in the Henry Draper catalogue is HD95418. In Arabic, it is known as Al-Maraqq.

Flamsteed designations are named after the creator, Sir John Flamsteed. Sir John named the stars in the constellation with a number and its latin name, this star's Flamsteed designation is 48 Ursae Majoris. The Flamsteed name can be shortened to 48 Uma.

BD number is the number that the star was filed under in the Durchmusterung or Bonner Durchmusterung, a star catalogue that was put together by the Bonn Observatory between 1859 to 1903. The star's BD Number is BD+57 1302.

More details on objects' alternative names can be found at Star Names .

Location of Merak

The location of the main sequence star in the night sky is determined by the Right Ascension (R.A.) and Declination (Dec.), these are equivalent to the Longitude and Latitude on the Earth. The Right Ascension is how far expressed in time (hh:mm:ss) the star is along the celestial equator. If the R.A. is positive then its eastwards. The Declination is how far north or south the object is compared to the celestial equator and is expressed in degrees. For Merak, the location is 11h 01m 50.39 and +56° 22` 56.4 .

Radial Velocity and Proper Motion of Merak

Proper Motion

All stars like planets orbit round a central spot, in the case of planets, its the central star such as the Sun. In the case of a star, its the galactic centre. The constellations that we see today will be different than they were 50,000 years ago or 50,000 years from now. Proper Motion details the movements of these stars and are measured in milliarcseconds. The star is moving 33.49 ± 0.09 milliarcseconds/year towards the north and 81.43 ± 0.16 milliarcseconds/year east if we saw them in the horizon.

Radial Velocity

The Radial Velocity, that is the speed at which the star is moving away/towards the Sun is -13.10000 km/s with an error of about 0.10 km/s . When the value is negative then the star and the Sun are getting closer to one another, likewise, a positive number means that two stars are moving away. Its nothing to fear as the stars are so far apart, they won't collide in our life-time, if ever.

Physical Properties of Merak

Merak Colour and Temperature

Based on the star's spectral type of A1V , Merak's colour and type is blue - white main sequence star. The star's effective temperature is 9,342 Kelvin which is hotter than our own Sun's effective Temperature which is 5,777 Kelvin.

Merak Luminosity

Luminosity is the amount of energy that a star pumps out and its relative to the amount that our star, the Sun gives out. The figure of 63.99 that I have given is based on the value in the Simbad Hipparcos Extended Catalogue at the University of Strasbourg from 2012.

Merak Radius

Merak estimated radius has been calculated as being 3.08 times bigger than the Sun. The Sun's radius is 695,800km, therefore the star's radius is an estimated 2,145,316.70.km. If you need the diameter of the star, you just need to multiple the radius by 2. However with the 2007 release of updated Hipparcos files, the radius is now calculated at being round 3.0974698469558040422326997072. The figure is derived at by using the formula from SDSS rather than peer reviewed papers. It has been known to produce widely incorrect figures.

Merak Iron Abundance

Merak Iron Abundance is -0.03 with an error value of 9.99 Fe/H with the Sun has a value of 1 to put it into context. The value comes from the Hipparcos Extended Catalog.

Merak Apparent and Absolute Magnitudes

Merak has an apparent magnitude of 2.34 which is how bright we see the star from Earth. Apparent Magnitude is also known as Visual Magnitude. If you used the 1997 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of 0.41 If you used the 2007 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of 0.40. Magnitude, whether it be apparent/visual or absolute magnitude is measured by a number, the smaller the number, the brighter the Star is. Our own Sun is the brightest star and therefore has the lowest of all magnitudes, -26.74. A faint star will have a high number.

Distance to Merak

Using the original Hipparcos data that was released in 1997, the parallax to the star was given as 41.07000 which gave the calculated distance to Merak as 79.42 light years away from Earth or 24.35 parsecs. If you want that in miles, it is about 466,880,427,138,242.31, based on 1 Ly = 5,878,625,373,183.61 miles.

In 2007, Hipparcos data was revised with a new parallax of 40.90000 which put Merak at a distance of 79.75 light years or 24.45 parsecs. It should not be taken as though the star is moving closer or further away from us. It is purely that the distance was recalculated.

Using the 2007 distance, the star is roughly 5,043,139.37 Astronomical Units from the Earth/Sun give or take a few. An Astronomical Unit is the distance between Earth and the Sun. The number of A.U. is the number of times that the star is from the Earth compared to the Sun. The star's Galacto-Centric Distance is 7,412.00 Parsecs or 24,175.23 Light Years. The Galacto-Centric Distance is the distance from the star to the Centre of the Galaxy which is Sagittarius A*.

Travel Time to Merak

The time it will take to travel to this star is dependent on how fast you are going. U.G. has done some calculations as to how long it will take going at differing speeds. A note about the calculations, when I'm talking about years, I'm talking non-leap years only (365 days).

The New Horizons space probe is the fastest probe that we've sent into space at the time of writing. Its primary mission was to visit Pluto which at the time of launch (2006), Pluto was still a planet.

DescriptionSpeed (m.p.h.)Time (years)
Airbus A38073672,665,320.87
Speed of Sound (Mach 1)767.26969,703,944.98
Concorde (Mach 2)1,534.5434,851,927.07
New Horizons Probe33,0001,620,656.85
Speed of Light670,616,629.0079.75

Source of Information

The source of the information if it has a Hip I.D. is from Simbad, the Hipparcos data library based at the University at Strasbourg, France. Hipparcos was a E.S.A. satellite operation launched in 1989 for four years. The items in red are values that I've calculated so they could well be wrong. Information regarding Metallicity and/or Mass is from the E.U. Exoplanets. The information was obtained as of 12th Feb 2017.

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Additional Merak Facts and Figures

Visual Facts

Primary / Proper / Traditional NameMerak
Alternative NamesBeta Ursae Majoris, Bet Uma, Al-Maraqq, HD 95418, HIP 53910, HR 4295, 48 Ursae Majoris, 48 Uma, BD+57 1302
Spectral TypeA1V
Constellation's Main StarYes
Multiple Star SystemNo / Unknown
Star Type Main Sequence Dwarf Star
GalaxyMilky Way
ConstellationUrsa Major
Absolute Magnitude 0.41 / 0.40
Visual / Apparent Magnitude2.34
Naked Eye VisibleYes - Magnitudes
Right Ascension (R.A.)11h 01m 50.39
Declination (Dec.)+56° 22` 56.4
Galactic Latitude54.80399724 degrees
Galactic Longitude149.16644421 degrees
1997 Distance from Earth41.07000 Parallax (milliarcseconds)
 79.42 Light Years
 24.35 Parsecs
2007 Distance from Earth40.90000 Parallax (milliarcseconds)
 79.75 Light Years
 24.45 Parsecs
 5,043,139.37 Astronomical Units
Galacto-Centric Distance24,175.23 Light Years / 7,412.00 Parsecs
Proper Motion Dec.33.49000 ± 0.09000 milliarcseconds/year
Proper Motion RA.81.43000 ± 0.16000 milliarcseconds/year
B-V Index0.03
Radial Velocity-13.10000 ± 0.10 km/s
Iron Abundance-0.0300 ± 9.99 Fe/H
Semi-Major Axis8913.0000000
Stellar Luminosity (Lsun)63.9900000
Brightest in Night Sky80th

Companions (Multi-Star and Exoplanets) Facts

Exoplanet CountNone/Unaware

Estimated Calculated Facts

Radius (x the Sun)3.10
Effective Temperature9,140 Kelvin

Sources and Links

SIMBAD SourceLink

Location of Merak in Ursa Major

Merak Location in Ursa Major

The map was generated using Night Vision, an awesome free application by Brian Simpson.

Ursa Major Main Stars

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