Does this photo show the "Little Dipper" and "Big Dipper"?

  • There are two clusters of stars that I always thought were the Big Dipper and Little Dipper. But after looking at images of the Little Dipper and Big Dipper online, I am not too sure if that's what they are. Also, I found out that the front edge of the Big Dipper is supposed to be aligned with Polaris (or the North Star), which is part of the Little Dipper, but that's not the case with these clusters of stars that I see.

    So last night I took this photo:

    Two clusters of stars circled

    I circled the clusters of stars that I thought were the Little Dipper and Big Dipper. I would like to know if either of these clusters are indeed the Little Dipper or Big Dipper. If either of them are not the Little Dipper or Big Dipper, what are they? And where should I look in relation to these two clusters to find the Little Dipper and Big Dipper?

    I have a rather dinky app on my tablet. if you hold it up it has a picture of the stars you are looking at, labelled with their names. As a plus, if you hold it pointing down it shows you the stars over Australia, which is rather cool. There are many apps to choose from, so I won't advertise.

    There's a very relevant XKCD comic, but it's also very rude.

    Pleiades does in fact look like a very little dipper.

    For the curious ones, the comic mentioned by @EricDuminil is

    If you make a fist and hold it at arms length, the big dipper will be a bit larger than that by your view.

    @RedSonja thanks that pretty cool, didn't know about those apps.

    You can also upload a photo to and it'll identify the stars in it for you.

  • James K

    James K Correct answer

    one year ago

    As mentioned, these are the Pleiades, and the belt of Orion. These are visible in the South at this time of year. The Big and Little Dippers are in the North, so turn around. The best way to find them is a map:

    enter image description here

    I've marked the approximate edge of your photo, with Orion, the V of the Hyades and the small cluster called the Pleiades. The big dipper is much bigger. It is usually quite easy to find, in the North East, In this map it is labeled "Ursa Major" which means "great bear".

    The little dipper is a rather faint constellation. Even its brightest star, Polaris, is only second magnitude. You can find it by tracing from the pointers in Ursa Major (I've coloured them green). It is the only moderately bright star in that region of the sky. Once you have found the Pole star, it is possible to make out the faint stars that make up the rest of the Ursa Minor, the little dipper.

    thanks, so if I pretty much look directly to the left of where I took the photo, I should be able to see the big dipper and little dipper.

    From Orion's shoulder (betelgeuse), move to Gemini the twins. and from there arc to the big dipper. Note it is much larger than either of the groups of stars that you have circled. The best thing would be to print out a map like this for your region, date and time and try to find as many of the constellations as possible. Orion, Sirus, Taurus and the V of the Hyades, the Pleiades, the W of Cassiopia, Auriga overhead, Leo rising in the East, and the Big Dipper are usually good to find at this time of year. It is actually easier to find more constellations than only one or two.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM