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Big dipper

A constellation in 3D
What is it about?

The constellation Ursa Major is well known as it contains the Big Dipper (or the Plough). The seven stars making up the Plough are not equidistant from the earth. The first (Alkaid) and the last (Dubhe) star are 123 light years from earth, whereas the other stars are about 78, 80, 81, 83 and 79 lightyears from earth, respectively). But you never see this in images of the constellation.

How do scientists use this knowledge?

Astronomy has been taught in Groningen since 1614, the year in which the University was founded. Astronomical research began in 1885, when the Astronomy Laboratory was established, under J.C. Kapteyn, the first Professor of Astronomy. He made Groningen astronomy world famous. After his retirement in 1921 and shortly before his death in 1922, the curators of Groningen University decided to name the astronomical laboratory after Kapteyn. In 1983, the Kapteyn Institute astronomers moved to the Zernike Campus. The institute has maintained its world fame!

Big dipper. Photo: Elco van der Meer
Big dipper. Photo: Elco van der Meer

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Last modified:17 September 2015 2.01 p.m.
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