More Than Just a Big Dipper

The big dipper is visible every day of the year from the Northern Hemisphere.  It’s easily recognizable and most people have spotted it at least once in their life.  But most people also assume that it is just a boring collection of stars where nothing interesting ever happens.  The big dipper is so much more than a simple spoon in the sky, especially right now.

Image Credit & Copyright: Lorand Fenyes

The well-known asterism, part of the much larger Ursa Major constellation, is home to many visible deep-sky objects, though right now it is visited by the comet C/2013 US10 Catalina, close to the visible binary system of Alcor and Mizar in the middle of the ‘handle.’  The two tails and greenish coma of the comet are easily visible in this image, though I expect clear skies and binoculars will be necessary to see it, especially with the full Moon right now.

Even harder to spot right now are the galaxies M51 and M101 on the left, and M108 and the Owl Nebula M97 on the right.  If you do manage to find some clear skies in the next few weeks, the cool Winter air is good for viewing.  Though of course clear skies in Winter are few and far between, so like me you’ll have to make due with what you’ve got.


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