Big Dipper

For northern hemisphere observers the Big Dipper is one of the most well-known asterisms, part of the constellation Ursa Major.The star in the "bend" of the handle (second from the top in the image) is also one of the more famous stars. In the image you can see that there is a brighter star, Mizar, with a fainter companion, Alcor. These can be seen as a pair by many observers without optical aid. A small backyard telescope reveals Mizar to be a double star itself and it was the first double star discovered as well as the first to be photographed. We later learned that each component of the Mizar double is itself a binary system, detectable only through the shifting of spectroscopic lines of each of the 4 stars in the system. It is possible to appreciate the Big Dipper on many levels while watching its steady rotation around the north celestial pole.It is simply a beautiful grouping of bright stars but it is also rewarding to think about all the people throughout history from many parts of the world who have appreciated this particular grouping and told stories about it, reminding us of how we are connected in time and space. Finally, we can appreciate the Mizar system for its complexity and different kind of beauty. The image here was acquired with a Google Pixel 6 shortly before dawn one morning in March 2022.