Coma Berenices

Berenice's Hair

Genitive:Comae Berenices
Origin:Conon of Samos, c.242 BCE
Fully Visible:56°S – 90°N

This is one of the few constellations which owes its name to a real person. Berenice Ⅱ was the wife of the Egyptian pharaoh Ptolemy Ⅲ. In 243 BCE, the queen promised to sacrifice her long blonde hair to the goddess Aphrodite if the goddess would return Ptolemy safely home from battle. The pharaoh duly returned unharmed and Berenice cut off her hair as an offering to the goddess. The hair disappeared from the Aphrodite's temple and the court astronomer, Conon, declared that the pleased Aphrodite had placed the hair in the sky. The asterism was known to the ancient Greeks but not considered a separate constellation until German cartographer Caspar Vogel (1511–1561) and Dutch cartographer Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594) placed it as such on their celestial globes. The constellation contains no bright stars but is home to galactic clusters and superclusters, and various star clusters, both open and globular.

The constellation of Coma Berenices

Notable Features

Visible Named Stars
α Com Diadem In Chinese astronomy, this star is known as Dongcixiang, from Dōng Cì Xiàng meaning 'the second eastern minister'.
Deep Sky Objects
M53 This globular cluster is approximately 60 million light years from Earth. Optical aids are required to see it.
M64 Blackeye Galaxy A spiral galaxy with a spectacular dark dust band in front of the nucleus, this object is probably the result of a merger between two galaxies. The outer regions of the galaxy rotate in the opposite direction from the inner regions!
M85 This lenticular galaxy is a member of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies.
M88 Another member of the Virgo Cluster, this spiral galaxy is inclined to the line of sight by over 60°.
M91 This barred spiral galaxy also claims membership in the Virgo Cluster.
M98 A spiral galaxy in the Virgo Cluster, this object displays a blue shift so unlike most extragalactic objects, this galaxy is getting closer to us.
M99 This galaxy is one of the first in which a spiral pattern was seen. It too is a member of the Virgo Cluster.
M100 This 'grand design' spiral galaxy is one of the biggest and brightest members of the Virgo Cluster. It is considered to be a starburst galaxy, a galaxy in which there is an unusually high rate of star formation.
C35 This supergiant elliptical galaxy conceals a massive black hole within its heart. It is also known by its New General Catalogue of NGC 4889.
C36 This is yet another spiral galaxy in this constellation. It is catalogued as NGC 4559.
C38 Needle Galaxy This edge-on spiral galaxy sits almost directly above the north galactic pole of the Milky Way. It is also known as NGC 4565.
Cr 256 Coma Star Cluster This open cluster consists of a scattering of stars fanning out below the star γ Com. It sometimes appears as Al Halbah (from the Arabic al‑hulba meaning 'the tail hair [of the lion]') in older star atlases and catalogues.
Meteor Shower Radiants
020 COM Comae Berenicids There are no major meteor showers associated with this constellation. The minor shower known as the Comae Berenicids was first discovered in 1959 and is active from December to February.