Bears in the Stars

For thousands of years, people in the Northern Hemisphere have looked skyward and picked out the stars forming the constellations Ursa Major (the Great Bear) and Ursa Minor (the Little Bear).

Big Dipper
Photo by NPS.

The Principal Keeper's Quarters with the Big Dipper overhead at the Cape Hatteras Light Station.

For thousands of years, people in the Northern Hemisphere have looked skyward and picked out the stars forming the constellations Ursa Major (the Great Bear) and Ursa Minor (the Little Bear). Greek myths tell of Callisto, who was transformed into a bear (the Great Bear) and hurled into the sky with her son Arcas (the Little Bear). An Iroquois legend tells of three hunters pursuing the Great Bear. Today we recognize the brightest stars within those constellations as the Big Dipper and Little Dipper, which can be seen in the dark night skies over many of our national parks.