Fixed star:  MIZAR
Constellation:  Zeta (ζ) Ursa Major
Longitude 1900:  14VIR17 Longitude 2000:  15VIR42
Declination 1900:  +55.27' Declination 2000:  +54.56'
Right ascension:  13h 23m Latitude:  +56.22'
Spectral class:  A2 Magnitude:  2.4

The history of the star: Mizar

from p.440 of Star Names, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889.

MizarZeta (ζ) Ursa Major, Mizar, is a double star, possibly binary, brilliant white and pale emerald on the Tail of the Great Bear.

A companion star, and only 11' distant, is Alcor, a 4th magnitude star and only people with excellent eyesight could distinguish it as a separate star. These stars used to be the 'test' or 'riddle' by which people used to test their eyesight on.  

Mirak was an early name for this, a repetition of that for beta (β Merak); but the 16th century French scholar Scaliger incorrectly changed it to the present Mizar, from the Arabic Mi'zar, a Girdle or Waist-cloth, which, although inappropriate, has maintained its place in modern lists; Mizat and Mirza being other forms. There is evident confusion in the early use of this word as a stellar title, for it has also been applied to the stars beta (β Merak) and epsilon (ε Alioth) of this constellation. The "hill Mizar" of the 42d Psalm sometimes is wrongly associated with this, the original Hebrew word mis'ar being better rendered in the Psalter, from Coverdale's version, as "the little hill," i.e. of Hermon, of which it was a minor peak.

This star zeta (ζ Mizar) also was the Arabic Anak al Banat, the Necks of the Maidens, referring to the Mourners at the Bier; or perhaps this should be rendered "the Goat of the Mourners," for in some editions of the 15th century Tartar astronomer Ulug Beg's Tables it was written Al Inak,—correctly Al Inz. Assemani said that it was "Alhiac," the Ostrich, probably another of his errors, as all these stellar birds were much farther south, in or near our River Eridanus.

With Alcor it has various combined titles noted at that star; and Wetzstein repeats an Arabic story in which Mizar is the walidan of the Banat, with Alcor as her new-born infant.

In India it may have been Vashishtha (Vasistha), one of the Seven Sages, [identifying Kratu with the star α Dubhe; Pulaha with β Merak; Pulastya with γ Phecda; Atri with δ Megrez; Angiras with ε Alioth; Vasishtha with this star ζ Mizar; Bhrigu with η Alkaid. [2]]

Zeta (ζ Mizar) is 4 ½° from epsilon (ε Alioth), and 7° from eta (η Alkaid) and a straight line from it to Polaris passes through the exact pole 1° 14' before reaching Polaris.

Mizar and Alcor are 11' 48" apart, and, since they have nearly identical proper motion, some think that they may also be in mutual revolution, although so distant from each other. With their attendant stars they form one of the finest objects in the sky for a small telescope, being readily resolved by a terrestrial eyepiece of 40 diameters with a 2 1/4-inch objective.

[Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889].


With Alcor (80 Ursa Major), this star Zeta (ζ Ursa Major), Mizar has various combined titles. There is an Arabic story in which this star, Mizar, is the walidan of the Banat, with Alcor as her new-born infant. In an Arabic story Alcor, was the little infant in the arms of one of the "Mourners" - this star Mizar. The constellation of the Great Bear was seen as a funeral procession, around a Bier or coffin. The bier was marked by the Plough or Big Dipper stars on the body of the Bear  - Merak (beta), Dubhe (alpha), Phecda (gamma) and Megrez (delta). The coffin was followed by "Mourners" the three big stars on the tail of the Great Bear; epsilon (Alioth), zeta (this star Mizar), and eta (Alkaid). These mourners, the children of Al Na'ash, who was murdered by Al Jadi, the pole-star (Polaris), are still nightly surrounding him in their thirst for vengeance, the walidan among the daughters — the star Mizar — holding in her arms her new-born infant, the little Alcor.

DipperIt is one of the "The Plough", also called "the Big Dipper" stars, an asterism in the back of the Bear, outlined by the stars; Merak (beta) Dubhe (alpha), Phecda (gamma) and Megrez (delta) on the body of the Bear, along with the three star of the tail; epsilon (Alioth), zeta (this star Mizar), and eta (Alkaid). The asterism was also seen as a Dipper or Ladle with the three stars in the tail forming the handle. The Big Dipper has been seen by various cultures as a plough, an ox cart, a wagon, it was known as Charlie's Wain in northern Europe. To the Hindus the four stars of the plough and the three stars in the tail was Sapta Rishi "The seven Wise Men." These seven stars (septentriones, from the phrase septem triones, meaning "seven plough oxen") are the origin of the Latin word septentriones meaning "north".

This star is located on the Bear's tail which occurred when Jupiter lay hold of the tails of the two bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, and lifted them up into the heavens by their tails. On the long journey, the tails stretched which explains why these bears have long tails unlike earthly bears.


The astrological influences of the constellation Ursa Major

Legend: Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, of whom Jupiter was enamored, became a follower of Diana on account of her love of hunting. Jupiter sought Callisto by assuming the form of Diana, and Juno (Jupiter's wife) who discovered the intrigue turned Callisto into a bear. Angry that the bear was placed in heaven, Juno requested her brother Neptune never to let those stars set within his kingdom, and for this reason they are always above the horizon in Europe [never disappear below the horizon, it is always visible in the night sky, all night, every night, throughout the year]. To account for the length of the bear's tail [because in reality bears don't have tails], it is said that Jupiter, fearing her teeth, lifted her by the tail, which became stretched because of her weight and the distance from earth to heaven. [Robson*, p.65.]

Influences: According to Ptolemy, Ursa Major is like Mars. It is said to give a quiet, prudent, suspicious, mistrustful, self-controlled, patient nature, but an uneasy spirit and great anger and revengefulness when roused. By the Kabalists it is associated with the Hebrew letter Zain and the 7th Tarot Trump "The Chariot." [Robson*, p.65.]

The astrological influences of the constellation Ursa Major given by Manilius:

"Now when, after completing a revolution round the pole, the Bear (Ursa Major) with muzzle foremost replaces her unceasing steps in her former tracks, never immersed in Ocean but ever turning in a circle, to those born at such a time wild creatures will show no hostile face, and in their dealings with animals these men will find them submissive to their rule. Such a one will be able to control huge lions with a gesture, to fondle wolves, and to play with captive panthers; so far from shunning the powerful bears that are the kin of the constellation, he will train them to human accomplishments and feats foreign to their nature; he will seat himself on the elephant's back and with a goad will direct the movements of a beast which disgraces its massive weight by yielding to tiny jabs; he will dispel the fury of the tiger, training it to become a peaceful animal, whilst all the other beasts which molest the earth with their savageness he will join in friendship to himself; keen-scented whelps he will train..." [here the translator notes that eight pages have been lost] [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, book 5, p.357, 359]

"Now where heaven reaches its culmination in the shining Bears, which from the summit of the sky look down on all the stars and know no setting and, shifting their opposed stations about the same high point, set sky and stars in rotation, from there an insubstantial axis runs down through the wintry air and controls the universe, keeping it pivoted at opposite poles: it forms the middle about which the starry sphere revolves and wheels its heavenly flight, but is itself without motion and, drawn straight through the empty spaces of the great sky to the two Bears and through the very globe of the Earth, stands fixed, since the entire atmosphere ever revolves in a circle, and every part of the whole rotates to the place from which it once began, that which is in the middle, about which all moves, so insubstantial that it cannot turn round upon itself or even submit to motion or spin in circular fashion, this men have called the axis, since, motionless itself, it yet sees everything spinning about it. The top of the axis is occupied by constellations well known to hapless mariners, guiding them over the measureless deep in their search for gain. Helice (Ursa Major), the greater, describes the greater arc; it is marked by seven stars which vie with each other under its guidance the ships of Greece set sail to cross the seas. Cynosura [Ursa Minor] is small and wheels round in a narrow circle, less in brightness as it is in size, but in the judgment of the Tyrians it excels the larger bear. Carthaginians count it the surer-guide when at sea they make for unseen shores. They are not set face to face: each with its muzzle points at the other's tail and follows one that follows it. Sprawling between them and embracing each the Dragon separates and surrounds them with its glowing stars lest they ever meet or leave their stations." [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, book 1, p.27, 29].

The astrological influences of the star Mizar

Supposedly, Mizar portends a Mars nature. The reputation of Mizar, if it is in maximal position in a mundane map, is that of being connected with fires of a catastrophic extent and mass calamities. In personal charts Mizar is not helpful if conjunct with 'bad' planets. It is not wrong to assume that, besides these handicaps, artistic emanations can also be attributed to Mizar. [Fixed Stars and Their Interpretation, Elsbeth Ebertin, 1928, p.55.]

Presages the death of a loved one. [Fixed Stars and Judicial Astrology, George Noonan, 1990, p.5.]


*[Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology, Vivian E. Robson, 1923].