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Earthsky Tonight — April 6, 2010: Use Big Dipper to find Polaris and Little Dipper

Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science

April 6, 2010

Here is the view northward on April evenings. Now the Big Dipper is high in the north. Notice the two outer stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper. These two stars – called Duhbe and Merak – always point to Polaris, the North Star.

Polaris is special because it always stays in the same spot in the northern sky. It is the star around which the entire northern sky appears to turn. That is because Polaris is located more or less above the northern axis of the Earth, and the wheeling of the stars across the dome of night is really due to Earth’s turning, after all.

Polaris is also fun to locate for another reason. It is part of a famous — though elusive — star pattern, known as the Little Dipper. If you have ever looked for them, you know that the Big Dipper is usually easy to find. However, the Little Dipper is much tougher, partly because it is fainter, and partly because its shape is not nearly so dipper-like as its larger counterpart.

So here it is! The Little Dipper! The North Star, Polaris, marks the end of its handle.


Give me five minutes; I’ll give you Saturn in 2010

Written by EarthSky

Other Links:

Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA/JPL

CHANDRA Photo Album

Sky and Telescope

National Geographic

Space Com

Amazing Space

The York County Astronomical Society

Scope City

James S McDonnell Planetarium

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