Ursa Major is primarily known from the asterism of its main seven relatively bright stars comprising the "Big Dipper", "the Wagon", "Charles's Wain" or "the Plough" (among others), with its stellar configuration mimicking the shape of the "Little Dipper".
The general constellation outline often significantly features in numerous world cultures, and frequently is used as a symbol of the north. e.g. as the flag of Alaska. Also the asterism's two brightest stars, named Dubhe and Merak (α Ursae Majoris and β Ursae Majoris), can be used as the navigational pointer towards the place of the current northern pole star, Polaris in Ursa Minor.
Ursa Major is visible throughout the year from most of the northern hemisphere, and appears circumpolar above the mid-northern latitudes. From southern temperate latitudes, the main asterism is invisible, but the southern parts of the constellation can still be viewed.
Appearing in the northern sky, Ursa Major occupies a large area covering 1279.66 square degrees or 3.10% of the total sky, making it the third largest constellations in the night sky. Eugène Delporte in 1930, who set the official International Astronomical Union (IAU) constellation boundaries, formed a 28-sided irregular polygon, which according to the equatorial coordinate system, stretches between the right ascension coordinates of 08h 08.3m and 14h 29.0m and the declination coordinates of +28.30° and +73.14°. Ursa Major borders eight other constellations: Draco to the north and northeast, Boötes to the east, Canes Venatici to the east and southeast, Coma Berenices to the southeast, Leo and Leo Minor to the south, Lynx to the southwest and Camelopardalis to the northwest. The three-letter constellation abbreviation 'UMa' was adopted by the IAU in 1922.
The "Big Dipper" (a term mainly used in the United States and Canada; Plough and (historically) Charles' Wain are often used in the United Kingdom) is an asterism within Ursa Major composed of seven bright stars (six of them of second magnitude or higher) that together comprise one of the best-known patterns in the sky. Like many of its common names allude to, its shape is said to resemble either a ladle, an agricultural plough or wagon; in the context of Ursa Major, they are commonly drawn to represent the hindquarters and tail of the Great Bear. Starting with the "ladle" portion of the dipper and extending clockwise (eastward in the sky) through the handle, these stars are the following: