Northern Circumpolar Constellations


Constellations come,
and climb the heavens, and go,
And thou dost see them rise,
Star of the Pole!
and thou dost see them set,
Alone, in thy cold skies,
Thou keep'st thy old unmoving station yet.


What does circumpolar mean?

Circumpolar means to circle around the pole. Circumpolar stars or constellations daily trace circles around the north celestial pole, without setting or dipping below the horizon. They move in a counterclockwise direction. On any given night, the constellation is visible during a portion of the circle; the rest is traced out when the constellation is hidden in the daylight sky.

Important circumpolar constellations:

Star chart created with Voyager II Software for Macintosh, published by Carina Software. This is just a taste of what Voyager can do! For info on Voyager II software, call Carina Software at (510) 355-1266, write them at 12919 Alcosta Blvd Suite #7, San Ramon, CA 94583, or visit Carina Software's home page and check out Voyager II for yourself.

In Summary

As explained in Starstruck Tonight

Ursa Major or the Big Bear is the third largest of the 88 constellations. Seven stars form a familiar group of stars, or an asterism within the constellation. In America they are called the Big Dipper or "Drinking Gourd," and in Britain the "Plough" or the "Wain." The Big Dipper is one of the most easily recognizable groups of stars in the sky. It is referred to as circumpolar because it never completely sets below the horizon, but is visible in northern skies year-round.

You can learn, as did ancient sailors and western cowhands on the night watch, to tell the time of the night by the position of the Big Dipper. Due to the daily rotation of the earth, the dipper rotates around the north star every twenty four hours.

As the night hours pass and the Earth turns on its axis, the stars turn in circles around Polaris, which appears to stand still. Some constellations are close enough to Polaris that they never set below the horizon. These are the circumpolar stars. Most stars are farther away from Polaris, and fall below the horizon. These appear to rise in the east, cross overhead, and set in the west, much like the Sun.

(Source: Starstruck Tonight script.)