Ursa Minor's only claim to fame is as home of the Pole Star, a claim which it will relinquish in the far future (in 12,000 years a much brighter star, Vega -- alpha Lyrae -- will be the north star).

This change of polar stars is due to what is termed 'precession', which is caused by the earth's slight wobble (much as a spinning top). This spin takes 26,000 years for a full rotation, allowing several stars to take their place as pole star. Of these, Vega is the brightest, while Thuban (alpha Draconis) is another on the list. Indeed, Thuban was quite a recent Pole Star, just 5000 years ago.

All northern constellations appear to revolve about the pole star and the further north the constellation the more noticeable the rotation. Ursa Minor itself spins nightly and its aspect depends very much on what time of the night, as well as what time of the year, one studies the constellation.

The aspect presented below is that found around midnight in mid-February.

It's important to be accustomed to viewing the constellation at other times of the year.
      Here is a midnight rendition of how Ursa Minor appears in spring, summer, and fall.

Click on alpha UMi to begin exploring this constellation.

Ursa Minor

Ursa Minor

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