If you were to stand at night right at the north pole of the planet, first of all, you would be very, very cold as you would be on top of a thick chunk of ice in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, but you would also notice something curious in the sky. The stars don’t set or rise on the horizon. They simply circle around the zenith (overhead) which is marked by Polaris, the North star.

These stars and constellations, unlike the rest, are not seasonal. They are visible throughout the year in most locations of the northern hemisphere. Circumpolar stars are also the reason for those really cool composite photos of the timelapse of the sky where they rotate around a central point (the magnetic north).

Notice how in the following photo some of the stars never dip below the horizon

Circumpolar stars
Circumpolar stars

This effect happens because as you get closer to the pole, the angle at which you are looking at the area of the sky that contains these stars changes and Earth’s rotation doesn’t “hide” this area anymore.

The following diagram hopefully explains this a bit better.

Circumpolar stars diagram
Circumpolar stars diagram

The southern hemisphere also has its own circumpolar constellations although they are different and they don’t have a star that is as well aligned to the pole as Polaris.

From the equator, there are no circumpolar stars.

Circumpolar constellations in the northern hemisphere

The number of circumpolar constellations you can see is going to depend on your location. The closer you are to the north pole, the more that you will perceive these constellations as circumpolar.

For most people in the US, Canada, and Europe, the circumpolar constellations are the following:

Ursa MajorBig bear
Ursa MinorSmall bear
CepheusKing of Ethiopia in Greek mythology
CassiopeiaMother of Andromeda in Greek mythology
Circumpolar constellations in the northern hemisphere

If you are closer to the equator around the 30° latitude in places like Florida or Spain, a couple of these constellations might dip below the horizon occasionally.

Circumpolar stars in the northern hemisphere

There are many circumpolar stars in the northern hemisphere. Most of them are going to be inside one of the major constellations listed above.

Only a handful of these stars are visible to the naked eye and their visibility is also going to depend on the sky conditions of your location, the amount of light pollution, weather, etc.

The following tables are going to list the brighter stars that form the main shape of the circumpolar constellations, but please note that those are not all the stars in each of them. Follow the links for a more complete list that includes all the discovered stars for every one of these star formations.

Ursa Major Stars

DesignationProper name
Epsilon Ursae MajorisAlioth
Alpha Ursae MajorisDubhe
Eta Ursae MajorisAlkaid / Benetnasch
Zeta Ursae MajorisMizar A & Mizar B
Gamma Ursae MajorisPhecda
Delta Ursae MajorisMegrez
Beta Ursae MajorisMerak
Omicron Ursae MajorisMuscida
Nu Ursae MajorisAlula Borealis
Theta Ursae MajorisSarir
Iota Ursae MajorisTalitha
Mu Ursae MajorisTania Australis
Lambda Ursae MajorisTania Borealis
Omega Ursae Majoris
Psi Ursae Majoris
Chi Ursae Majoris
Xi Ursae MajorisAlula Australis


Ursa Minor Stars

DesignationProper name
Alpha Ursae MinorisPolaris
Beta Ursae MinorisKochab
Gamma Ursae MinorisPherkad
Epsilon Ursae Minoris
Zeta Ursae MinorisAhfa al Farkadain
Delta Ursae MinorisYildun
Eta Ursae MinorisAlasco
Theta Ursae Minoris
11 Ursae MinorisPherkad Minor

Complete list of stars in the Ursa Minor constellation

Draco stars

DesignationProper name
Gamma DraconisEltanin
Eta DraconisAldibain
Beta DraconisDastaban
Delta DraconisAltais
Zeta DraconisAldhibah
Iota DraconisEdasich
Chi Draconis
Xi DraconisThubium
Lambda DraconisGiausar
Epsilon DraconisTyl
Kappa DraconisShaowei
Theta DraconisShangzai
Phi DraconisZhushi
Sigma DraconisAlsafi
42 DraconisFafnir
Upsilon DraconisShaobi

Complete list of stars in Draco

Cepheus stars

DesignationProper name
Alpha CepheiAlderamin
Gamma CepheiArrai
Beta CepheiAlfirk
Zeta Cephei
Eta CepheiAl Kidr
Mu CepheiGarnet’s star
Xi Cephei AKurhah

Complete list of stars in Cepheus

Cassiopeia stars

DesignationProper name
Alpha CassiopeiaeSchedar
Beta CassiopeiaeCaph
Gamma CassiopeiaeNavi
Delta CassiopeiaeRuchbah
Epsilon CassiopeiaeSegin
Eta CassiopeiaeAchird
Zeta CassiopeiaeFulu
Theta CassiopeiaeMarfak
Upsilon2 CassiopeiaeCastula

Complete list of stars in Cassiopeia

Camelopardalis stars

DesignationProper name
Alpha CamelopardalisShaowei
Beta Camelopardalis
CS Camelopardalis
BE Camelopardalis
Gamma Camelopardalis

Complete list of stars in Camelopardalis


Elena is a Canadian journalist and researcher. She has been looking at the sky for years and hopes to introduce more people to the wonderful hobby that is astronomy.