how many stars are in Ursa Minor? and how many major stars are in Ursa Minor?

Hi Arian,
Second question first... If by "major stars" you mean those brighter stars that define the outline of the "Little Dipper", there are 7; 4 in the "bowl" and 3 in the handle, the beginning handle star is Polaris, or Alpha Ursae Minoris. (Yes, we use lower case Greek Letter designations for the names of the brighter stars in a constellation (area) followed by the Latin Genitive case (possessive case in English) of the constellation because the constellation "owns" the star.  (Polaris has a third and fourth name also, both nicknames,
the Pole Star or the North Star. And at +2.2 magnitude, it's about the 50th brightest star in our night sky.)
But if by "major stars" you mean naked-eye stars with a typical limiting magnitude of about +6th, then there are about 20 - 30 stars in that area, depending on how good your vision is, and how dark of a night sky you have.... so it varies. Binoculars covering down to +8th or +9th magnitude would reveal hundreds, if not thousands of stars in that area.
Since constellations are simply areas of the sky, no one knows the answer as to "how many total stars" are in Ursa Minor; A small 6 inch mirror telescope would perhaps reveal thousands of stars. But since constellations are simply a specific area of sky (like a state), that's like asking... how many trees are growing right now in the state of Texas?  A large telescope like the twin Keck's in Hawaii would reveal probably millions of stars in that area.
And that would be true of ANY constellation (area of sky) that you choose.  With our unaided eyes, we only see the "whales" among all the fishes out there.
Hope this helps,
Clear Skies,
Tom Whiting
Erie, PA  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Tom Whiting


Astronomy has been my hobby/pasttime for over 50 years.  Currently own 3 telescopes, the largest of which is a 30 inch Newtonian truss Dob that is portable.I taught Astronomy/Meteorology at the University Level for 13 years before retiring in 1995. Being retired and home most of the time, I am able to answer all questions relatively quickly, unless it's a new moon weekend with good observing conditions.  No astrology questions please, or questions about alleged UFO picture identifications.


Experience: Astronomy has been my hobby and study for over 50 years. We currently now own a 30 inch portable telescope (Updated - Pennsylvania`s largest portable telescope). It can be seen on our website at: and also attend several regional starparties during the year, and have been on 5 total solar eclipse expeditions.

Organizations: President, Erie County Mobile Observers Group for over 15 years.

Publications: Wrote the "Over Erie Skies" newspaper article in our local newspaper for 11 years (1975-86).

Education: Masters Degree- Taught at the University level for 13 years. Retired 20 years -USAF Pilot - KC-135 with 180 combat missions;  Also Eagle Scout, Philmont staff 2 Yrs, Order of Arrow Lodge Chief, Ham Radio (inactive).

Awards: two discoveries: The mini-coathanger asterism in Ursa Minor (the little dipper) And the mini-ladle- another asterism in the bowl of Ursa Minor. Clients: Currently President of the ECMOG as mentioned above.

BS  Metallurgical Engineering Grove City College, PAMaster's Degree, Gannon University, Erie, PA Also retired USAF pilot, 20 years.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]