Big Dipper vs. Little Dipper: Differences between them

Big Dipper vs. Little Dipper: Differences between them

Have problems differentiating between the Big Dipper and Little Dipper?

Don’t worry; we’ve got your back. 

There are some key differences between the two types of dippers, and in this article, we will shed some light on them.

We will also discuss some other aspects of the Big and Little Dipper.

WHAT IS THE BIG DIPPER?

The Big Dipper is located in the constellation Ursa Major and is an asterism. The Big Dipper is one of the most familiar star shapes in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere. The Big dipper is also a key navigation tool for sailors.

Asterisms are a group of stars that form a pattern and are part of a constellation. These stars are typically easy to locate; they are close to each other and have the same brightness level. The Big Dipper has about eight stars; from a glance, seven are visible. The eighth star is also visible through the naked eye and is a double star.

WHAT IS THE LITTLE DIPPER?

The Little Dipper is located in the Ursa Minor constellation. Asterisms are combinations of several stars that have the same brightness. The stars are also part of a different constellation.

The Little Dipper is a big component of the Ursa Minor, the handles form the tail of the bear, and the flank is the dipper cup. Little Dipper’s most popular star is Polaris and is also referred to as the Pole Star or North Star.

The Pole star aligns with the Celestial pole or earth’s axis. All the stars seem to circle the Northern Star in the Northern Hemisphere. The Northern star remains stationary at all times and is useful for navigation.

KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE LITTLE DIPPER AND BIG DIPPER

The first main difference between the Little and the Big Dipper is that the Big Dipper belongs to the Ursa Major constellation while the Little Dipper belongs to the Ursa Minor constellation. If you are able to see the two dippers at night, which is not uncommon, they are visible at night in the Northern Hemisphere.

The large constellation will be the Big Dipper, whereas the small constellation will be the Little Dipper. Note that both the dippers have a considerable difference in size. The second star from the handle in the Big Dipper is angled.

In the Little Dipper, the stars that are part of the handle’s curve are aligned with each other perfectly. The Big Dipper resembles a saucepan, and the handle connects with the ring’s widest part, giving it a saucepan-like appearance.

However, this doesn’t happen with the Little Dipper since the saucepan’s base is greater than the container. This is a big difference between the two dippers, and observers have even pointed it out. If you want to find out the difference, look at the second star on the handle. If there is a small-sized star attached to the handle, you look at the Big Dipper.

STARS IN THE LITTLE DIPPER

These are some of the stars that are located in the Little Dipper:

  • Polaris: This star is approximately 323 light-years away from planet earth and is six times larger than the sun. The color of the star is yellow and is a supergiant.
  • Kochab: This start is roughly 131 light-years away from our planet and is three times the size of the sun. Most of the star’s light is sent into space through infrared wavelengths. This star has more barium in it than the sun.
  • Yield: This star is 181 light-years away from us and is three times the size of our sun. This star is faster than our sun since it has a quicker rotation speed. A complete rotation ends in just nineteen hours.
  • Eps UMi: This star is quite far from earth, approximately 345 light-years, and is 3.5 times the size of our sun. Eps UMi is a double-star and is usually visible with the help of a spectrograph. This star has ceased hydrogen fusion and is going to become a red giant.
  • Akhfa al Farkadein: This star is about 375 light-years away from planet earth and is also 3.5 times the size of our sun. The rotation speed of this star is quick, completing a full rotation in 1 ½ days.

STARS IN THE BIG DIPPER

These are some of the stars that are located in the Big Dipper:

  • Phecda: Phecda, also referred to as Phad, is a large star located in the Big Dipper. The star is approximately 2.4 times the size of the sun. This star is more luminous than our sun and has a temperature of 9,355 k.
  • Dubhe: Dubhe is about 123 light-years away from earth and is the second brightest star in the constellation Ursa Major. The star’s visual magnitude is 1.79 and has a stellar classification of K0III. This star is also referred to as the Orange giant and has an orbital period of 44.4 years.
  • Merak: This is a giant star in the Big Dipper; it is 79.7 light-years away from us and has a magnitude of 2.37. This star, 3.021 times the size of the sun, is more luminous and has a temperature of 9,377 k. The estimated age of the star is 500 million years.
  • Megrez: Megrez is the dimmest star in the Big Dipper and has a magnitude of 3.312. This star lies 80.5 light-years away from earth and has a temperature of 9,420 k. The star is approximately 14.2 times more luminous than our sun. It is estimated that the age of this star is 300 million years.
  • Alioth: Alioth is located in the tail of Ursa Major, and it has a visible magnitude of 1.77. The star is 82.6 light-years away from earth and 4.14 times the size of the sun. This start has 102 luminosities and a temperature of 9,020 k.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

HOW TO SPOT THE LITTLE DIPPER AND BIG DIPPER?

The Big dipper is easier to spot that the Little Dipper, as it is visible at night in the Northern Hemisphere. Since the Earth spins, both the Little and the Big Dipper rotate around the North Star. The two dippers are easily visible from the Northern part of the Northern Hemisphere.

The dippers are constantly in the sky, above the horizon, and circling the North Star. If your horizon is unobstructed, you can easily locate the Big dipper, especially the latitude north of the 35th Parallel.

The Little Dipper is circumpolar, which means it is constantly above the horizon and is located south of the Tropics of Cancer. Generally, if you can spot the Big Dipper, you can also locate the Little Dipper.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE LITTLE DIPPER?

The Little Dipper is used for navigation purposes by sailors. The North Star, Polaris, points towards the North and is the brightest star close to the pole. Sailors use Polaris to find their latitude. If the sailors are close to the equator, the North Star will be close to the horizon. However, if you are close to Polaris, the star will be right above you.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE BIG DIPPER?

Like the Little Dipper, sailors also use the Big Dipper as a navigation tool. In fact, using the Big Dipper is the easiest way to find Polaris. You will need to find the two pointer stars at the front of the ladle. These two stars are called Dubhe and Merak. Sailors usually follow the line through these stars to locate the North Star.

ANY RECENT SCIENTIFIC STUDIES ON BIG AND LITTLE DIPPER?

While the Northern Star has guided the sailors for centuries, in 2014, astronomers discovered the brightness of Polaris had increased. Polaris has been known as a Variable star for several decades, and in the 1990s, Polaris was dimming.

New studies conducted in 2000 proved that the start is not dimming; it is shining brighter than ever before. In 2014, a team of researchers concluded that Polaris was about 2.5 times brighter today than before.

In 2014, another interesting thing was discovered, culminating in a rare Supernovae event between the little and the Big Dipper. This supernova was found in M82, a galaxy. The Supernovae were first visible to researchers on the 21st of January.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT NAMES FOR THE BIG DIPPER GLOBALLY?

The Big Dipper is known by different names around the world. It is known as the Seven Great Sages in Hindu astronomy. In Eastern Asian folklore, the dipper is called the Northern Dipper. The Chinese refer to the Big Dipper as Tseih Sing. The Big Dipper is known as Ladle or Buruj Biduk in Malaysia.

CONCLUSION

In this article, we thoroughly discussed The Big and Little Dipper. We also discussed some key differences between the two asterisks. There are different stars in the Big and Little dipper; we mentioned a few in this article. Lastly, we did a FAQ section, in which we gave answers to several key questions regarding the Big and Little Dipper.