On May 2, 1780, Sir William Herschel discovered that this was a binary star system, making it the first such system ever discovered. It was the first visual double star for which an orbit was calculated, when it was computed by Félix Savary in 1828.
The system is composed of a double star whose two components are yellow G-type main sequence dwarfs. The brighter component, Xi Ursae Majoris A, has a mean apparent magnitude of +4.41. It is classified as an RS Canum Venaticorum type variable star and its brightness varies by 0.01 magnitudes. The companion star, Xi Ursae Majoris B has an apparent magnitude of +4.87. The orbital period of the two stars is 59.84 years, and they are currently separated by 1.2 arcseconds, or at least 10 Astronomical Units.
Each component of this double star is itself a spectroscopic binary. B's binary companion, denoted Xi Ursae Majoris Bb, is unresolved, but the binary star is known to have an orbital period of 3.98 days.