Ursa Minor

This constellation was introduced probably around 600 BC by the Greek astronomer Thales of Miletus. In earlier times it represented the wings of the Draco, the Dragon. The Little Dipper is formed only by the seven brightest stars, the complete constellation is officially called Ursa Minor, Little Bear. It contains hardly any interesting destinations for a telescope besides Polaris, our North Star. The box stars of the Little Dipper have magnitudes between 2.1 and 5.0m, they are therefore well suited to determine the limiting magnitude of your sky.

α Ursae Minoris (Polaris) has been close to the northern celestial pole for about a millennium. By the year 2102 the celestial pole will approach the 2.0m bright star up to 0.5°, before it will move away again because of the precession of the Earth‘s axis. Since Polaris stands always in the north and can be used for navigation, it has a different proper name in almost every language.

18.4 arc seconds away from Polaris there is a 8.4m bright star. This companion needs 1,000 years to orbit Polaris, from which it is separated by 2,000 AU. Polaris is also a spectroscopic binary. Until 1994, low brightness fluctuations of 0.1m were observed within a period of 3.97 days, but since 1994 the brightness of the 430 light-years distant Polaris is constant.

Harrington 1 was already called the Engagement Ring by Robert Burnham, Jr., long before it was added to Phillip Harrington‘s list of binocular objects. It is a 35 arcmin wide semicircle of stars of seventh and eighth magnitude, which can be found next to Polaris. The only notable deep-sky object of the Little Dipper is not an open star cluster, but only an asterism.

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