About The Big Dipper

The Big Dipper is one of the more famous and recognizable groupings of stars in the world today. The dipper was first called the Plough, mainly by the English. Upon creation of the colonies, American’s began to identify it as a ladle, rather than a plough and the name, “Big Dipper” was born. Civilizations in western Africa also identify the grouping of stars in similar fashion and refer to the shape as “The Drinking Gourd.” However, contrary to common belief, the Big Dipper is not a constellation of itself but rather part of the constellation Ursa Major, also known as the Big Bear. The handle of the Big Dipper consists of three stars, and is the easiest part of the image to find. This handle, so easily identified by many star gazers, is actually the tail of the Ursa Major constellation. The seven stars within the Big Dipper make finding this image within the sky an easy and rewarding experience, if you are in the northern hemisphere, it is visible in the sky 365 days a year, assuming the weather permits. The dipper is easiest to find in the early morning or the early evening, and it is advisable to be in a dark area. The Big Dipper furthermore, acts as a reference to see where other constellations are such as Libra and Leo.

The Big Dipper has been tied to a great deal of lore through various cultures. Some believe it is a tool to predict the future and navigate an individual’s way. The concept of a navigational tool are somewhat recent, as during the Civil War, many African American slaves used the Big Dipper as a way to point out which way was the correct way to the north. The utility of the Big Dipper was used by experienced sailors and cowhands as well; they were able to use the Big Dipper to tell the time of night, which was very valuable prior to the age of electricity and time pieces. Star gazers also often use the Big Dipper to find other, less easily found constellations in the sky as well. The Big Dipper can be used to find Cassioperioa, Adromeda, Pegasus, Leo, Cyngus and many others.

It is true that the Big Dipper is an important part of the Ursa Major constellation, but it has gained a great deal of notoriety on its own merits. The Big Dipper has many interwoven galaxies within it, and furthermore is quite a mystery to scientists all around the world in present day society.




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