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Find Gemini, Cancer & Leo from The Big Dipper

The Zodiacal Sky:

Aries, Taurus & Gemini

Cancer, Leo & Virgo

Finding Leo & Virgo from

The Big Dipper

by Martin J. Powell


Finding Leo and Virgo from The Big Dipper. Click for full-size image, 29 KB (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2009)The well-known asterism (star group) known as The Big Dipper (or The Plough) in Ursa Major (The Great Bear) can be used as a starting point to finding Leo and Virgo in the night sky (provided these constellations are above the observer's horizon at the required time). Click on the accompanying thumbnail to see the full-size diagram (29 KB).

To find Leo, use 'The Pointer Stars' Dubhe (pronounced 'DUB-ee',Greek letter Alpha Ursae Majoris) and Merak (Greek letter Beta Ursae Majoris) in the opposite direction from Polaris (Greek letter Alpha Ursae Minoris, the 'Pole Star') as indicated in the animation.

To find Virgo, use the 'handle stars' of The Dipper (the 'handle' of The Saucepan) to project an arc in a Southward direction until you come across the bright, orange-coloured star Arcturus (Greek letter Alpha Bo÷tis) in the constellation of Bo÷tes (pronounced 'Boe-OH-teez'), The Herdsman.

From Arcturus, continue the arc Southwards to the bright star Spica (pronounced 'SPY-kah', or Greek letter Alpha Virginis), the brightest star in Virgo.

Note that this method primarily applies to Northern hemisphere observers. Southern hemisphere observers can only use this method if they are situated North of latitude 28░ South (The Big Dipper is not wholly visible at latitudes further South than this).

The lines pointing to Leo and Virgo from The Big Dipper can also be seen in the form of an animation (1.3 MB).

Find Leo & Virgo from The Big Dipper (Desktop Site)

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Copyright  Martin J Powell  2009

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