One of the first constellations most people learn about is the Big Dipper, located in the Ursa Major (Big Bear) constellation. The Big Dipper is also known as the Plough and the Drinking Gourd in various parts of the world. It is a rectangular shape with a three-star ´handle´ pointing off to its top left.

This dipper is part of the Big Bear - his hindquarters. The handle is the bear´s tail. The bear has a triangular head, squarish body and then four legs all pointing forward.

According to Greek legends, Callisto was a beautiful huntress that Zeus fell in love with. Zeus´ wife, Hera, got jealous and turned Callisto into a giant bear. Callisto´s son, Arcas, went to look for her. Callisto saw him and ran towards him, but all Arcas saw was a giant bear attacking and got ready to kill it. Zeus instead turned him into a bear too, and put them both into the sky.

The Big Bear / Big Dipper is always in the sky, and is sometimes right side up and sometimes upside down. Because it is always in the sky, and rotates around as the earth does, you can actually learn to tell time with it based on its location. The ancients did!

Astronomy Information Pages