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Coma Berenices


English name:
Berenice's Hair
see Stellar data



Although a faint constellation of the northern hemisphere it is quite interesting. A part of the Virgo-Cluster of galaxies swaps over to Coma Berenices. So often this galaxy cluster is called Virgo-Coma-Cluster.
Coma Berenices is sandwiched between the Hunting Dogs, Canes Venatici to the north, Virgo to the south, Leo on the west border and Bootes on the east border.
The galactic northpole is located in this constellation.

Stars and other objects

The leading star of this constellation, alpha Com, also known as Diadem, is a binary which cannot be splitted into its components by amateur telescopes.
On the other hand the double 24 Com is an attraktive object for small telescopes.It consists of an orange giant of 5th mag, which contrasts beautiful with the blue-white 7th mag companion.
The loose collection of stars below gamma Com is known as the Coma Star Cluster. These about 30 stars form a triangular shaped group and are best observed with binoculars. The brightest members are about 5th mag.
In small telescopes M 53 appears as a misty patch.
One of the most famous of the galaxies in this constellation is the Black Eye Galaxy, M64. It got its name from the dark patch of dust near its center. Telescopes with 150 mm aperture and higher and good optics show this "eye in the galaxy".
The other galaxies belong to the Virgo-Coma Cluster. Detailed information about the Messier object can be found in the Messier database.
The meteor shower Coma-Berenicids has a duration from 8th of december to 23rd of january. Although this is a weak shower lots of meteors has been photographed. A detailed description of this shower can be found in Gary Kronk's database about meteor showers.

Mythological Background:

This constellation were named by the greek Konon of Samos (247 BC) after the hair of Egyptian Queen Berenice. She was the wife of King Ptolemy III Euergestes. The story goes that when the King went to war Berenice promised her hair to Aphrodite, the greek Goddess of Love, if her husbend returns savely and victorious. After the kings return Berenice kept her promise though the loss was hard. Aphrodite herself brought the hair to the stars.
(To be less prosaic, there is a story claiming that Konon told the King and the Queen that Aphrodite took the hair to cool down tempers because the King was pissed when he saw his wife with cut hair.)
Queen Berenice died 221 BC.

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C. Kronberg --- 97/04/21 --- smil at clell.de