The Big Dipper is a group of stars belonging to the constellation Ursa Major or the Big Bear. It is easy to spot on any dark night in the Northern Hemisphere. The Big Dipper with its neighbor the Little Dipper can be seen rotating around the North star Polaris throughout the year. In summer and spring, you will find it at its highest in the Northern Hemisphere. For centuries, the Big Dipper has been used as a navigation tool as it has many bright stars like Alioth (1.8 magnitudes i.e. 102 times brighter than the Sun), Mizar and Alcor, etc.
Quick Guide to Observe the Big Dipper
Make sure you are using a star map, it will greatly help. The Big Dipper is not hard to spot. However, you can use star apps like Stellarium or others to find it easily. Find the darkest night and look towards the north horizon at 60 degrees angle. Center the Big Dipper on the finderscope with a low magnification and a long focal length object.
How to find the Big Dipper?
- Find a location away from light pollution. The darkest the best.
- Find out a position for yourself where the northern horizon is clear enough.
- You can take help from a map or a magnetic compass to find the north. Look into the northern sky at a 60-degree angle. If it is mid-summer or autumn, the Big Dipper will be near the horizon. It will be hard to see from the southern locations.
What is the best time to observe the Big Dipper?
The best time to view the Big Dipper is during summer from March to June at around 10 p.m.
What can you see with the Big Dipper with a telescope?
- Polaris- the North Star
- The constellation Ursa Major- The Great Bear
- Arcturus and Spica
- Deep Sky Objects in Ursa Major
- M101 – The Pinwheel Galaxy in Ursa Major
- M51 – The Whirlpool Galaxy
- M81 and M82
- M81 (left) and M82 (right) in Ursa Major
- M97 – The Owl Nebula Location in Ursa Major
- The naked eye double star Mizar and Alcor in the handle of the Big Dipper
What telescope to see the Big Dipper?
Celestron – NexStar 8SE Telescope – Computerized Telescope, and Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector, are great telescopes to see The Big Dipper. A list of telescopes has more telescope options that can see The Big Dipper very clearly.
What size telescope to see the Big Dipper?
With a 70mm telescope, you will get great views of The Big Dipper. The more the aperture, the better and sharper the images and the details. But to get the best details you should have a telescope with at least 500 mm of aperture.
What magnification is required to see the Big Dipper?
50x magnification is enough to show the whole moon. However, 150x magnification is better to see the details. The Big Dipper can tolerate higher magnification than all other night sky objects. It also helps to reduce glare from The Big Dipper.
Enjoying the Big Dipper? Here are other things to see with your telescope.
The Big Dipper is a collection of stars that appear awesome with a telescope. However, the same telescopes can show you the amazing planets of the solar system with their moons. Myriads of nebulae, galaxies, and asteroids look outstanding with your telescope. Viewing The Sun Through A Telescope can guide you to observe our own star with full eye protection. You also can go through ‘List of things to see with a telescope’ to get an idea of the objects you can plan to observe next time.