Where did the Little Dipper and the Big Dipper go?
© Johann Elert Bode
Neither the Little Dipper nor the Big Dipper is on the list of official constellations.
The Little Dipper and the Big Dipper are the most well-known star configurations and they are important guideposts for the rest of the night sky. Still, strictly speaking they are not official constellations. Astronomers recognize 88 such official constellations; their names were registered in 1922 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU; the organization which in conjunction with UNESCO is organizing the International Year of Astronomy this year), putting an end to the confusion that had crept into the classification of constellations over the years.
Neither the Big Dipper nor the Little Dipper can be found in the official list of constellation names. Strictly speaking, they are just partial constellations or 'asterisms' – special groupings of stars. The Big Dipper forms part of the constellation 'Ursa Major', the Great Bear, and the Little Dipper forms part of the Little Bear or 'Ursa Minor'.
German Aerospace Center