How to differentiate the Big Dipper from the Little Dipper

Differences between the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper1. INTRODUCTION

#Question: How can I know if the dipper shape asterism is the Big Dipper or the Little Dipper? Is there any way to distinguish them?

Yes, there are. Below you can find 4 easy tips to differenciate them. I hope it helps. 🐻⭐️🌌



From obvious to specific:

  1. If you are able to see the two of them at the same time (both are visible throughout the year in the northern hemisphere), the largest constellation will be the Big Dipper and the smallest the Little Dipper (they have a considerable difference in size).
  2. In the Big Dipper the second star from the handle is angled (like in the image); in the Little Dipper the stars that form the curve of the handle are more smoothly aligned.
  3. The Big Dipper has a very clear saucepan shape: the handle joins the widest part of the ring giving it a container shape. This does NOT happen in the Little Dipper, since the base of the saucepan is greater than its container. It’s a subtle difference when you don’t know it, but clearly distinctive to the observation.
  4. If you have a good eye, take a good look at the second star of the handle. If you see a very small star attached to it, it is the Big Dipper.

Differences between the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper


Surely there will be many more differences, but with these you will be able to distinguish the Big Dipper from the Little Dipper.



  • To make the image I have used this one from Bonč’s (Wikimedia Commons) as a base, which is based on this real photograph of Alex Zelenko.
  • The additional star on the handle of the Big Dipper can be double-checked in astronomical applications like Sky Map.
  • The rest of the differences can be verified by yourself by simple observation (size difference) and / or by consulting images of these constellations (shape differences).

Learner Trip

PhD in Education. I've been sharing all kind of content/information on the Internet for 14+ years now. I try to do it in the most straightforward and reliable way possible, cross-referencing information with the primary sources of authority in each field (unless unnecessary). You can reach out to me in the comments. I read all your inquiries and typically respond to most of them daily. If you find what I do helpful, you can support me here. 🙂




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *