The big dipper and the little dipper are perhaps two of the most popular and easy to recognize constellations in the night sky. However, to spot either of them one must be located in the northern hemisphere of the earth because they are both located in what we call the northern sky.
The big dipper is the easiest to spot of the two being as to how it is made up of bigger and brighter stars. While spotting the big dipper might be possible from a city spot away from most of the bright lights, the little dipper needs to be observed away from a big city from a mainly dark place.
Both the big dipper and the little dipper are made up of seven stars; three make up the handle, and the other four make up the bowl. The constellations look like big soup ladles. Depending on where one is observing the big dipper and little dipper from, the big dipper will be on the bottom, and the little dipper will be on top of it, seemingly flipped over to spill into the big dipper. They are basically a mirror image of each other.
During the times of late spring to early summer, the best and easiest way to spot these constellations would be to find a dark place late in the evening, and look north. East should be at ones right and west on the left. Without having to look directly up, one should easily spot the bright stars that make up the handle on the big dipper. From there you can count the 3 handle stars and find the rest of the constellation.
After clearly identifying the big dipper, one can look above it and find the little dipper. Again, to be able to see the little dipper, one must be in a dark place. Most places are much too bright to fully appreciate the little dipper and its fainter stars.
The big dipper and little dipper, or Ursa Major and Ursa Minor as they are also known, are the oldest known constellations. Ursa Major has also been identified as a bear by many civilizations throughout history. The name Ursa Major actually means great bear in Latin.
Within these popular constellations one can also find several distant galaxies. The two stars at the end of the bowl in the big dipper point in the direction of the North Star. The North Star is in actuality the end of the handle of the little dipper.
At different times of the year the big dipper and little dipper might be located in what we perceive to be different areas of the sky, and visible at different times in the night and even early morning. Also depending on the season, the big dipper will be seen upside down.
The big dipper can even be used as a way to tell time depending on its location in the night’s sky by seasoned constellation observers. Once one gets used to its position depending on the time of the year, you will be able to tell what time it is by observing this constellations current placement.