Following on the resounding success of the Southern Skies series, that concluded in 2014, it is no surprise that the Royal Australian Mint last year decided to launch a companion series entitled : Northern Skies.
Much like it's predecessor the astrologically themed series consists of three domed silver coins depicting star constellations from the northern celestial hemisphere. With, what is in our opinion, a much improved design aesthetic and lower mintage figures it should perhaps come as no surprise that the launch issue(the Cassiopeia coin) was a sure sell-out.
The 2016 domed silver coin is the second of three coins in the Northern Skies series and depicts the Ursa Major Constellation. Ursa Major, sometimes called the Great Bear, is the third largest constellation in the sky and acts as a reference to Ursa Minor which contains the north star, Polaris.
The reverse design follows in the tracks laid by 2016's Cassiopeia coin with a somewhat more muted colour treatment than what the Southern Skies series was known for. Simultaneously also adding a landscape feature in the foreground to contrast and give perspective to the celestial depiction that forms the main focus of the design. The Cassiopeia coin had the viewer gazing over a forest, of what seemed like pine trees. The 2016 Ursa Major coin presents a starker mountainous terrain in the foreground instead.
The night's sky is beautifully colourized with hues of deep blue , purple and soft golden tones. The individual stars that make up the constellation is left untreated to better highlight them to the viewer and to allow the cold metal to truly shine against the darker colour background. The background is meant to look like a celestial sphere with lines of declination and right ascension. A decorative border frames the image, the border contains celestial coordinates. First 13h, 11h and 9h that correspond to the three lines of declination, and then +40° +60° that correspond to the two lines of right ascension. The rest of the obverse has reverse proof finish. The words : “NORTHERN SKY – URSA MAJOR” are inscribed at the top and “FIVE DOLLARS” at the bottom.
The obverse shows the right facing crowned effigy of HM Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley. “ELIZABETH II” is inscribed to the left and “AUSTRALIA 2016” to the right. The domed coin has a smooth edge and is shipped in a black Royal Australian Mint clamshell case.
The 39.62mm(1.56 inch) is struck from 1oz of pure silver, with a limited mintage of only 5000 coins. The coin is set to retail for AUS$120.00(US$90.00) each and can be obtained directly from the Royal Australian Mint or from a reputable international coin dealer.