The Big Dipper Asterism Facts
General: Composed of seven of the brightest stars in the constellation Ursa Major. These seven stars form the rump and tail of The Great Bear, or Ursa Major.
Names: The Big Dipper (North America), The Plough (British Isles), Sapta Rishi (Hindu Astronomy),
Star Information: (Western name first, Indian name in parenthesis)
Dubhe (Kratu): 124 ly (light years) from Earth; 1.8 apparent magnitude
Merak (Pulaha): 79 ly from Earth; 2.4 apparent magnitude
Phecda (Pulastya): 84 ly from Earth; 2.4 apparent magnitude
Megrez (Atri): 81 ly from Earth; 3.3 apparent magnitude
Alioth (Angiras): 81 ly from Earth; 1.8 apparent magnitude
Mizar (Vasishtha): 78 ly from Earth; 2.1 apparent magnitude
Alkaid (Bhrigu): 101 ly from Earth; 1.9 apparent magnitude
Mythology: Much of the mythology concerning the Big Dipper is relative to the myths about the Great Bear, which can be found in the next page about the mythology of Ursa Major; however, there is some mythology concerned wholly with the Big Dipper itself. In Hindu astronomy, the name for the asterism is Sapta Rishi; the seven stars of the asterism are said to represent the seven rishis, or poet-sages, seers, who were mediums or conduits for the Vedic texts.
Interesting Facts: In roughly 50,00 years, the Big Dipper will no longer be visible in its current shape. All of the stars except for Dubhe and Alkaid are part of the Ursa Major Moving Group, and so the members of the asterism are shifting incongruously with one another as a whole. The Ursa Major Moving Group is a group of stars which are all moving toward the same point in Sagittarius.