March / April (Usually visible from northern latitudes)
A luminouswhitestar emitting some sixty times the light energy of the Sun, Phecda rotates extremely rapidly on its axis within a surrounding cloud of material. From Earth, it lies on a close line of sight to the distinctive barred spiral galaxyM109.
This whitestar forms a part of the prominent asterism of the Plough or Big Dipper within Ursa Major, the Great Bear. It lies at the southeastern corner of the ploughshare (or the dipper's bowl), but within Ursa Major it also forms the point where the bear's rear legs meet its body (hence its name, which comes from the Arabic for 'thigh' of the bear).
Pheca shines against the backdrop of the M109Group, a populous cloud of galaxies running through central Ursa Major. The galaxy that gives this group its name, the barred spiralM109, lies less than a degree from Phecda in the sky, and is visible in this image to the southeast (lower left) of the star. Imagery provided by Aladin sky atlas
Along with four of the other six stars in the Plough (and numerous other less prominent stars) Phecda forms part of the Ursa Major Moving Group, a group of several dozen stars though to have a shared origin some three hundred million years ago, following a mutual course through the Galaxy towards a point in the constellationSagittarius.