MadSci Network: Astronomy

Re: Why is the 'Little Dipper visible year round.

Date: Sat Feb 13 21:19:10 1999
Posted By: Richard T. De Van, Owner, PeregrineWest Internet Publications
Area of science: Astronomy
ID: 918849675.As

Dear Dale:

The Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) is a circumpolar constellation - a 
constellation close to the celestial pole and visible at any time of the 
year.   The celestial pole is directly over the North Pole of Earth and, 
coincidentally, the star Polaris is almost exactly at the north celestial 
pole.  Polaris marks the end of the handle of the Little Dipper.

As Earth rotates it appears to us that the northern constellations rotate 
around Polaris.   At the north pole, Polaris is directly overhead and all 
visible constellations are circumpolar, although they are only visible  
during the dark months.  At the latitudes of the US,  Polaris is one-third 
to one-half of the way up from the northern horizon and only a few 
constellations appear circumpolar. From Albuquerque, the constellations of 
Cassiopeia (the W) and Cepheus are also visible year-round, as well as most 
of Ursa Major, Draco, and Camelopardalis.

There are also circumpolar constellations visible in the Southern 

Richard T. De Van
Salt Lake City, Utah

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