"The Dipper stove"
Big Dipper, as seen from Hawaii
Public DomainBig Dipper, as seen from Hawaii - Credit: Gh5046

The Dipper (or Big Dipper) is the American name for the seven brightest stars of the constellation Ursa Major, named after the large ladle or dipper shaped by the outline of its major stars.

Known in Britain as the Plough, it is believed the American term Big Dipper originated from Africa, where it was sometimes seen as a drinking gourd. Since the North Star (Polaris) can be found using the Dipper, according to legend, runaway slaves in the 19th century would ‘follow the Drinking Gourd’ to the north and freedom.