| Favorite Star Patterns on Mar 24, 2014
Big Dipper via EarthSky Facebook friend Ken Christison.

Big Dipper via EarthSky Facebook friend Ken Christison.
The Big Dipper is easy. And, once you find it, you can find the Little Dipper, too. Plus … learn how the stars of the Big Dipper are moving in space.

A fixture of the northern sky, the Big and Little Dippers swing around the north star Polaris like riders on a Ferris wheel. They go full circle around Polaris once a day – or once every 23 hours and 56 minutes. If you live at temperate latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, simply look northward and chances are that you’ll see the Big Dipper in your nighttime sky. It looks just like its namesake. Once you’ve found the Big Dipper, it’s only a hop, skip and jump to Polaris and the Little Dipper. Follow the links below to learn more about the Big and Little Dippers.

How to find the Big Dipper.

How to use Big Dipper to find Little Dipper.

History and mythology of the celestial Bears.

How the Big Dipper’s star are moving in space.

If you’re in the northern U.S., Canada or at a similar latitude, the Big Dipper is circumpolar for you – always above the horizon. These images show the Dipper’s location at around midnight in these seasons. Just remember “spring up and fall down” for the Dipper’s appearance in our northern sky. It ascends in the northeast on spring evenings, and descends in the northwest on fall evenings. Image via

View larger. | The Big Dipper seen in the midst of the northern lights, taken in 2012 by EarthSky Facebook friend Birgit Boden in northern Sweden.

View larger. | Here’s the Big Dipper in autumn, when it’s descending in the northwest in the evening, as seen by EarthSky Facebook friend John Michael Mizzi on the island of Gozo, south of Italy. Thank you, John Michael!

How to find the Big Dipper. Depending upon the season of the year, the Big Dipper can be found high in the northern sky or low in the northern sky. Just remember the old saying spring up and fall down. On spring and summer evenings, the Big Dipper shine highest in the sky. On autumn and winter evenings, the Big Dipper lurks closest to the horizon.

Given an unobstructed horizon, latitudes at and north of Little Rock, Arkansas (35 degrees north) can expect to see the Big Dipper at any hour of the night for all days of the year. As for the Little Dipper, it is circumpolar – always above the horizon – as far south as the tropic of Cancer (23.5 degrees north latitude).

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