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The Circumpolar Stars
(Hover over the stars to see the constellations, click on them to find out more)

explore Cepheus explore Cassiopeia
explore Draco
explore Draco explore Cepheus
explore Ursa Minor
explore Draco
explore Ursa Major
Typical view 2 hours after sunset looking due North in Autumn. A fist at arms length is 10 degrees across.

Looking north on any clear night you will see the five principal constellations that surround the North Celestial Pole. At different times of year they will appear at different orientations. The most obvious signpost is the saucepan shape of the Plough, the seven brightest stars in the Great Bear. If you follow the line of the end two stars (the "pointers") you will come to Polaris, the Pole Star or North Star. This relatively bright star is close to the North Celestial Pole and over the course of the night all the stars appear to wheel about this axis in an anti-clockwise sense. Polaris is the tail of the Little Bear, but this looks more like a soup ladle! On the other side of Polaris you will find a distinctive "W" or "M" shape that marks the Queen of the Night, Cassiopeia. Her hen-pecked husband, Cepheus is close by, although much fainter. Finally, snaking his way around the Pole is Draco the Dragon.