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Coma Berenices

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coma Berenices
Coma Berenices
GenitiveComae Berenices
genitive /ˈkm/
SymbolismBerenice's hair
Right ascension 11h 58m 25.0885s– 13h 36m 06.9433s[1]
Area386 sq. deg. (42nd)
Main stars3
Stars with planets5
Stars brighter than 3.00m0
Stars within 10.00 pc (32.62 ly)1
Brightest starβ Com (4.26m)
Messier objects8
Meteor showersComa Berenicids
Canes Venatici
Ursa Major
Visible at latitudes between +90° and −70°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of May.

Coma Berenices is an ancient asterism in the northern sky which has been defined as one of the 88 modern constellations. It is located in the fourth galactic quadrant, between Leo and Boötes, and is visible in both hemispheres. Its name means "Berenice's Hair" in Latin and refers to Queen Berenice II of Egypt, who sacrificed her long hair as a votive offering.[2] It was introduced to Western astronomy during the third century BC by Conon of Samos and was further corroborated as a constellation by Gerardus Mercator and Tycho Brahe. Coma Berenices is the only modern constellation named for a historic person.

The constellation's major stars are Alpha Comae Berenices, Beta Comae Berenices and Gamma Comae Berenices. They form a 45-degree triangle, from which Berenice's imaginary tresses, formed by the Coma Star Cluster, hang. The constellation's brightest star is Beta Comae Berenices, a 4.2-magnitude main sequence star similar to the Sun. Coma Berenices contains the North Galactic Pole and one of the richest known galaxy clusters, the Coma Cluster, part of the Coma Supercluster. Galaxy Malin 1, in the constellation, is the first-known giant low-surface-brightness galaxy. Supernova SN 2005ap discovered in Coma Berenices is the second-brightest known, and SN 1940B was the first observed example of a type II supernova. The star FK Comae Berenices is the prototype of an eponymous class of variable stars. The constellation is the radiant of one meteor shower, Coma Berenicids, which has one of the fastest meteor speeds, up to 65 kilometres per second (40 mi/s).

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  • ✪ Coma Berenices Meaning


Welcome to Learn the Sky, your online resource for learning about the stars. Learn the sky is now on Patreon, so if you would like to support this channel in order to learn more about the sky, please visit our Patreon account. The link is listed below. We are also offering new online courses, so if you're interested in learning about the sky in greater detail and would like a guide to help you walk through the sky, please visit and check out our online courses. Welcome my name is Janine and in this video we will explore the constellation known as Coma Berenices. First we'll look at the mythology and then explore the patterns. Coma Berenices or Berenice's Hair, is a constellation in the northern sky. It was named after Queen Berenices II of Egypt. Queen Berenice II of Egypt, the historical figure, is often associated with Coma Berenices and more specifically her hair. Berenice II was married to Ptolemy III Euergetes, who went on a dangerous mission. Worried for her husband's life, the Queen swore to Aphrodite that she would cut off her long beautiful, blond hair if the goddess brought her husband back safely. When her husband returned, Berenice II fulfilled her promise. She cut off her hair and placed it in a temple dedicated to Aphrodite. However the hair disappeared from the temple the next day. This made the King furious. To appease the King's anger, the court astronomers and mathematicians told the king that Aphrodite was so pleased with the offering that she placed it in the sky. The astronomer then pointed to the group of stars that we now know as Coma Berenices or rather Berenice's Hair. Now we'll examine the pattern of Coma Berenices. As we take a look at this photograph, the constellation that probably stands out to you the most would be Ursa Major or also known as the Big Dipper. The Big Dipper is remember an asterism so a smaller pattern within the larger constellation pattern. But in this photograph we're looking for Coma Berenices so I want you to take your eyes towards the lower portion the image and see if you can find an area that has a little bit of a star cluster area. That is where Coma Berenices is and that's how its easiest to identify it. In this photo right down here is part of a constellation of Coma Berenices. If we take a look at its official outline and boundaries, what we can see here is that it only consists of three stars and alpha beta and gamma stars, but it's really rich in many different types of celestial objects and that's why this constellation is fascinating to look at. Now that we know what the star pattern of Coma Berenices looks like, let's get some practice with how to identify it in the sky. So as you take a look at this photo there's probably a few bright stars that stand out to you as well as that little cluster of stars right in the center of the photo those clusters of stars is the proper way to really be able to identify this constellation and find it. When you're looking for it in the sky you want to be able to identify that fuzzy little patch of stars. The bright stars in this picture aren't actually part of the constellation but you can use them to help you find it. So when we take a look at the constellation traced out here you can see you have the alpha beta and gamma stars and this right here is where you can focus on in the sky to help you find the rest of these stars and to be honest every time I view this constellation outside I really only noticed this in the in the sky. These stars are very faint. But you can use Car Caroli in Canes Venetici and Denebola in Leo to help you find this constellation. Let's get some more practice with how to find Coma Berenices. There are quite a few constellations in this picture. The first one you should notice is Ursa Major. You can use the handle of the Big Dipper to arc to Arcturus and when you do that our, Arcturus is the bright orangish colored star towards the bottom. That there will connect you to Boötes and Boötes is right next to Corona Borealis, which kind of looks like a smile. You can find the smile towards the left side of the screen in this picture, then you're doing a good job. However we're looking for Coma Berenices, so again take your eyes back to the Big Dipper and then just go down towards the right hand side of the photo and can you find that cluster of stars? If you can and this is what we're looking at; so we have Ursa Major up here and then if you use the handle to get to Boötes you can know that Coma Berenices is right here and it's really this star cluster that you focus on. Notice how it is sort of brighter than these other three stars that are within the boundaries of this constellation. So again if we wipe this away you should hopefully be able to find Coma Berenices using that star cluster area and find the three stars that are close to it. Let's have one more practice round to help us find Coma Berenices. So as you're looking at this photo try to identify the Big Dipper. If you can find the Big Dipper, use the handle to arc to Arcturus, and then as you arc to Arcturus, you want to just move a little bit towards the right. Can you find that little patch, a star cluster, that's right towards the center of this photo? If we point everything out this is where we're looking at. So Coma Berenices is the constellation that is circled in orange. So you want to find the Big Dipper, arc to Arcturus and then right next to is where Coma Berenices is as well you can also use the handle of the Big Dipper right here find Canes Venetici, which is this little two star constellation and right underneath it is where Coma Berenices is and also notice Leo the Lion right here. Coma Berenices used to be considered like the tuft of the tail of the lion but then was renamed after that historical figure Queen Berenices II. So again this is a great way to help you practice how to find this constellation. Coma Berenices may not be a large constellation, but it does contain lots of celestial objects that are easy to find within its boundaries. It contains one galactic supercluster, 2 galactic clusters, a star cluster and 8 Messier objects. These objects are not obscured by dust because it doesn't sit within the galactic plane, which makes it easier to see these objects. The first celestial object we'll examine is the Coma Cluster. It is roughly 288 light-years away and covers an area of more than 7.5 degrees in the sky. This cluster is approximately 450 million years old and it used to represent Leo's tail, but it was renamed by Ptolemy III after the legend of Queen Berenice's Hair. There are about one hundred stars in the Coma Star Cluster and it lies within our own Milky Way Galaxy. If we look at the star map of Coma Berenices again right here is where the Coma Cluster is so this whole area is considered to be the Coma Cluster. Now we'll take a look at Messier 53. Messier 53 is a globular star cluster estimated to be 58,000 light-years from Earth. This 8th magnitude celestial object needs magnification to be seen it looks like a hazy patch slightly oval in shape with a bright core. It lives outside of the disk of the Milky Way; in fact most globular clusters are found in the halo or outer edges of our home Galaxy.It is best seen in the months of March, April, and May. Another object to see in Coma Berenices is Messier 88. It was one of the first objects to be identified as a spiral galaxy and it lies approximately 47 million light years away. It has an apparent magnitude of 10.4, so magnification is needed if you want to see it. The incline of the galaxy makes it ideal for seeing the structure of the galaxy and the shape of the arms. Messier Object 88 is one of the 15 Messier galaxies that belong to the Virgo Cluster. Another notable object in Coma Berenices is Messier 64, which has also been dubbed as the Black Eye Galaxy, the Evil Eye Galaxy or the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy. It is famous for the dark band of absorbing dust that lies right in front of the bright nucleus. It has an apparent magnitude of 9.36, so magnification is needed to see it. With binoculars it will appear as a fuzzy patch but with a decent sized telescope the shape of the arms and the bright core can be distinguished. It is estimated to be 24 million light years away. Our next set of galaxies are called NGC 4676, also known as the Mice Galaxies. They are two spiral galaxies approximately 290 million light-years away and they have begun the process of colliding and merging. The name of the Mice Galaxies refers to the long tails produced from them interacting with each other. NGC 4565, also known as the Needle Galaxy, is an edge-on spiral galaxy about 30 to 50 million light years away. It has been dubbed as the Needle Galaxy for it's very narrow profile and it has a visual magnitude of 10 so again magnification is needed to see it. It has two satellite galaxies that interact with it and it has about 240 globular clusters within its halo which is more than the Milky Way has. It is estimated to be more luminous than the Andromeda Galaxy. Another object of importance is called the Coma Cluster, which is a large cluster of galaxies that contains over 1,000 identified galaxies. It's too faint to be seen by the human eye or even a pair of binoculars or small telescope so ancient astronomers would not have been able to see this collection of galaxies. It is one of the largest cluster of galaxies known and by scientists studying it it has become the source of the first ideas about dark matter in the universe. If we zoom in and take a look at the Coma Cluster you can see there's a variety of shapes and sizes of galaxies, throughout this cluster. And it really is beautiful to examine. Finally we come to Dragonfly 44, an ultra diffuse galaxy estimated to be over 300 million light years away. This galaxy is as large as the Milky Way Galaxy, but it only emits 1% as much light as our home galaxy. So that means 99% of the matter in the galaxy cannot be seen. It consists almost entirely of dark matter and is still considered to be one of the most mysterious galaxies that has ever been observed. Coma Berenices has many more celestial objects as you can see from this map and we only highlighted some of the more famous objects within its boundaries. I encourage you to explore this constellation in the sky since there is so much to see. Let's review what we've learned about Coma Berenices also known as Berenices hair it's best seen in the spring months and is classified to be a seasonal constellation. The best way to find it is to look between Ursa Major and Leo. It used to be the tuft of the lion's tail, so if you can find Leo look for the small little hazy spot above the lion. There are many celestial objects and most famously the Coma Open Cluster takes up a good portion of this constellation. There's also the Coma Cluster of galaxies that contains over a thousand galaxies. So I encourage you to keep going outside try to find this constellation, it really is fascinating to see. If you have any comments or questions, leave them in the comments. Good luck star hunting.



Coma Berenices has been recognized as an asterism since the Hellenistic period[3] (or much earlier, according to some authors), and is the only modern constellation named for an historic figure.[4] It was introduced to Western astronomy during the third century BC by Conon of Samos, the court astronomer of Egyptian ruler Ptolemy III Euergetes, to honour Ptolemy's consort, Berenice II.[5] Berenice vowed to sacrifice her long hair as a votive offering if Ptolemy returned safely from battle during the Third Syrian War.[6] Modern scholars are uncertain if Berenice made the sacrifice before or after Ptolemy's return; it was suggested that it happened after Ptolemy's return (around March–June or May 245 BC), when Conon presented the asterism jointly with scholar and poet Callimachus during a public evening ceremony.[7] In Callimachus' poem, Aetia (composed around that time), Berenice dedicated her tresses "to all the gods". In the Latin translation of the poem by the Roman poet Catullus and in Hyginus' De Astronomica, she dedicated her tresses to Aphrodite and placed them in the temple of Arsinoe II (identified after Berenice's death with Aphrodite) at Zephyrium. According to De astronomica, by the next morning the tresses had disappeared. Conon proposed that Aphrodite had placed the tresses in the sky as an acknowledgement of Berenice's sacrifice.[6] Callimachus called the asterism plokamos Berenikēs or bostrukhon Berenikēs in Greek, translated into Latin as "Coma Berenices" by Catullus. Eratosthenes (3rd century BC) called it "Berenice's Hair" and "Ariadne's Hair", considering it part of the constellation Leo.[8] Hipparchus[9] and Geminus recognized it as a distinct constellation,[10] but astronomer Ptolemy did not include it among his 48 constellations in the Almagest;[9] he considered it part of Leo,[3] and called it Plokamos.[11]

Sixteenth-century sky map superimposed on a globe
Coma Berenices on Mercator's 1551 celestial globe, in the upper left

Coma Berenices became popular during the 16th century. In 1515, a set of gores by Johannes Schöner labelled the asterism Trica, "hair". In 1536 it appeared on a celestial globe by Caspar Vopel, who is credited with the asterism's designation as a constellation.[12] That year, it also appeared on a celestial map by Petrus Apianus as "Crines Berenices". In 1551, Coma Berenices appeared on a celestial globe by Gerardus Mercator with five Latin and Greek names: Cincinnus, caesaries, πλόκαμος, Berenicis crinis and Trica. Mercator's reputation as a cartographer ensured the constellation's inclusion on Dutch sky globes beginning in 1589.[13]

Tycho Brahe, also credited with Coma's designation as a constellation, included it in his 1602 star catalogue.[3] Brahe recorded fourteen stars in the constellation; Johannes Hevelius increased its number to twenty-one, and John Flamsteed to forty-three. Coma Berenices also appeared in Johann Bayer's 1603 Uranometria, and a few other 17th-century celestial maps followed suit. Coma Berenices and the now-obsolete Antinous are considered the first post-Ptolemaic constellations depicted on a celestial globe.[14] With Antinous, Coma Berenices exemplified a trend in astronomy in which globe- and map-makers continued to rely on the ancients for data. This trend ended at the turn of the 16th century with observations of the southern sky and the work of Tycho Brahe.[13]

Before the 18th century Coma Berenices was known in English by several names, including "Berenice's Bush" and "Berenice's periwig".[15] The earliest known English name, "Berenices haire", dates to 1601.[15][16] By 1702 the constellation was known as Coma Berenices,[17] and appears as such in the 1731 Universal Etymological English Dictionary.

Non-Western astronomy

Coma Berenices was known to the Akkadians as Ḫegala.[18] In Babylonian astronomy a star, known as ḪÉ.GÁL-a-a (translated as "which is before it") or MÚL.ḪÉ.GÁL-a-a, is tentatively considered part of Coma Berenices.[19] It was also argued that Coma Berenices appears in Egyptian Ramesside star clocks as sb3w ꜥš3w, meaning "many stars".[20]

In Arabic astronomy Coma Berenices was known as Al-Dafira and Al-Hulba (translations of Ptolemaic Plokamos), forming the tuft of the constellation Leo[11] and including most of the Flamsteed-designated stars (particularly 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18 and 21 Comae Berenices).[21] Ulugh Beg, however, regarded Al-Dafira as consisting of two stars, 7 and 23 Comae Berenices.[22]

In Chinese astronomy, the stars making up Coma Berenices were in two areas: the Supreme Palace enclosure and the Azure Dragon of the East. Eighteen of the constellation's stars were in an area known as Lang wei (seat of the general), part of the Supreme Palace enclosure,[23] The Chinese gave proper names to several stars in the constellation.[23]

The North American Pawnee people depicted Coma Berenices as ten faint stars on a tanned elk-skin star map dated to at least the 17th century.[24] In the South American Kalina mythology, the constellation was known as ombatapo (face).[25]

The constellation was also recognized by several Polynesian peoples. The people of Tonga had four names for Coma Berenices: Fatana-lua, Fata-olunga, Fata-lalo and Kapakau-o-Tafahi.[26] The Boorong people called the constellation Tourt-chinboiong-gherra, and saw it as a small flock of birds drinking rainwater from a puddle in the crotch of a tree.[27] The people of the Pukapuka atoll may have called it Te Yiku-o-te-kiole, although sometimes this name is associated with Ursa Major.[28]


Coma Berenices is bordered by Boötes to the east, Canes Venatici to the north, Leo to the west and Virgo to the south. Covering 386.5 square degrees and 0.937% of the night sky, it ranks 42nd of the 88 constellations in size,[29] The three-letter abbreviation for the constellation, as adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1922, is 'Com'.[30] The official constellation boundaries, as set by Eugène Delporte in 1930,[a] are defined by a polygon of 12 segments (illustrated in infobox). In the equatorial coordinate system, the right ascension coordinates of these borders lie between  11h 58m 25.09s and  13h 36m 06.94s, and the declination coordinates are between +13.30° and +33.31°.[1] Coma Berenices is wholly visible to observers north of latitude 56°S.[b] and the constellation's midnight culmination occurs on 2 April.[32]


Photo of Coma Berenices' three visible stars, which form a triangle
Coma Berenices as seen by the naked eye

Although it is not large, Coma Berenices contains one galactic supercluster, two galactic clusters, one star cluster and eight Messier objects (including several globular clusters). These objects can be seen with minimal obscuration by dust because the constellation is not in the direction of the galactic plane. Because of that, there are few open clusters (except for the Coma Berenices Cluster, which dominates the northern part of the constellation), diffuse nebulae or planetary nebulae. Coma Berenices contains the North Galactic Pole at right ascension  12h 51m 25s and declination +27° 07′ 48″ (epoch J2000.0).


Brightest stars

Black-on-white photo of the constellation
Coma Berenices' major stars

Coma Berenices is not particularly bright, as none of its stars are brighter than fourth magnitude,[33] although there are 66 stars brighter than or equal to apparent magnitude 6.5.[c][29]

The constellation's brightest star is Beta Comae Berenices (43 Comae Berenices in Flamsteed designation, occasionally known as Al-Dafira), at magnitude 4.2 and with a high proper motion. In Coma Berenices' northeastern region, it is 29.95 ± 0.10 light-years from Earth.[35] A solar analog, it is a yellow-hued F-type main-sequence star with a spectral class of F9.5V B.[36] Beta Comae Berenices is around 36% brighter,[37] and 15% more massive than the Sun,[38] and with a radius 10% larger.[37]

The second-brightest star in Coma Berenices is the 4.3-magnitude, bluish Alpha Comae Berenices (42 Comae Berenices), with the proper name Diadem, in the southeastern part of the constellation. Despite its Alpha Bayer designation, the star is dimmer than Beta Comae Berenices. It is a double star, with the spectral classes of F5V and F6V.[39] The star system is 58.1 ± 0.9 light-years from Earth.[40]

Gamma Comae Berenices (15 Comae Berenices) is an orange-hued giant star with a magnitude of 4.4 and a spectral class of K1III C. In the southwestern part of the constellation, it is 169 ± 2 light-years from Earth,[41] Estimated to be around 1.79 times as massive as the Sun,[42] it has expanded to around 10 times its radius.[43] It is the brightest star in the Coma Star Cluster.[44] With Alpha Comae Berenices and Beta Comae Berenices, Gamma Comae Berenices forms a 45-degree isosceles triangle from which Berenice's imaginary tresses hang.

Star systems

The star systems of Coma Berenices include binary, double and triple stars. 21 Comae Berenices (proper name Kissin) is a close binary with nearly-equal components and an orbital period of 26 years.[45] The system is 272 ± 3 l light-years away.[46] The Coma Cluster contains at least eight spectroscopic binaries,[47] and the constellation has seven eclipsing binaries: CC, DD, EK, RW, RZ, SS and UX Comae Berenices.[48]

There are over thirty double stars in Coma Berenices,[49] including 24 Comae Berenices with contrasting colors. Its primary is an orange-hued giant star with a magnitude of 5.0, 610 light-years from Earth, and its secondary is a blue-white-hued star with a magnitude of 6.6. Triple stars include 12 Comae Berenices, 17 Comae Berenices, KR Comae Berenices and Struve 1639.[50][51]

Variable stars

Over 200 variable stars are known in Coma Berenices, although many are obscure.[52] Alpha Comae Berenices is a possible Algol variable.[53] FK Comae Berenices, which varies from magnitude 8.14 to 8.33 over a period of 2.4 days, is the prototype for the FK Comae Berenices class of variable stars[52] and the star in which the "flip-flop phenomenon" was discovered.[54] FS Comae Berenices is a semi-regular variable, a red giant with a period of about two months whose magnitude varies between 6.1 and 5.3. R Comae Berenices is a Mira variable with a maximum magnitude of almost 7.[55] There are 123 RR Lyrae variables in the constellation,[56] with many in the M53 galaxy.[57] One of these stars, TU Comae Berenices, may have a binary system.[58] The M100 galaxy contains about twenty Cepheid variables, which were observed by the Hubble Space Telescope.[59] Coma Berenices also contains Alpha2 Canum Venaticorum variables, such as 13 Comae Berenices and AI Comae Berenices.[60]


A number of supernovae have been discovered in Coma Berenices. Four (SN 1940B, SN 1969H, SN 1987E and SN 1999gs) were in the NGC 4725 galaxy,[61] and another four were discovered in the M99 galaxy (NGC 4254): SN 1967H, SN 1972Q, SN 1986I and SN 2014L.[61] Five were discovered in the M100 galaxy (NGC 4321): SN 1901B, SN 1914A, SN 1959E, SN 1979C and SN 2006X.[61] SN 1940B, discovered on 5 May 1940, was the first observed type II supernova.[62] SN 2005ap, discovered on 3 March 2005, is the second-brightest-known supernova to date with a peak absolute magnitude of about −22.7.[63] Due to its great distance from Earth (4.7 billion light-years), it was not visible to the naked eye and was discovered telescopically. SN 1979C, discovered in 1979, retained its original X-ray brightness for 25 years despite fading in visible light.[64]

Other stars

Coma Berenices also contains the neutron star RBS 1223 and the pulsar PSR B1237+25.[65] RBS 1223 is a member of the Magnificent Seven, a group of young neutron stars.[66] In 1975, the first extra-solar source of extreme ultraviolet, the white dwarf HZ 43, was discovered in Coma Berenices.[67] In 1995, there was a very rare outburst of the WZ Sagittae-type dwarf nova AL Comae Berenices.[68] A June 2003 outburst from GO Comae Berenices, an SU Ursae Majoris-type dwarf nova, was photometrically observed.[69]


Coma Berenices has seven known exoplanets.[70] One, HD 108874 b, has Earth-like insolation.[71] WASP-56 is a sun-like star of spectral type G6 and apparent magnitude 11.48 with a planet 0.6 the mass of Jupiter that has a period of 4.6 days.[72]

Star clusters

Coma Star Cluster

The Coma Star Cluster represents Berenice's sacrificed tresses and as a naked eye object has been known since antiquity, appearing in Ptolemy's Almagest.[73] It doesn't have a Messier or NGC designation, but is in the Melotte catalogue of open clusters (designated Melotte 111) and is also catalogued as Collinder 256. It is a large, diffuse open cluster of about 50 stars ranging between magnitudes five and ten, including several of Coma Berenices' stars which are visible to the naked eye. The cluster is spread over a huge region (more than five degrees across) near Gamma Comae Berenices. It has such a large apparent size because it is relatively close, only 288 light-years away.

Globular clusters

M53 (NGC 5024) is a globular cluster which was discovered independently by Johann Elert Bode in 1775 and Charles Messier in February 1777; William Herschel was the first to resolve it into stars.[57] The magnitude-7.7 cluster is 56,000 light-years from Earth. Only 1° away is NGC 5053, a globular cluster with a sparser nucleus of stars. Its total luminosity is the equivalent of about 16,000 suns, one of the lowest luminosities of any globular cluster. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1784. NGC 4147 is a somewhat dimmer globular cluster, with a much-smaller apparent size.


Coma Supercluster

The Coma Supercluster, itself part of the Coma Filament, contains the Coma and Leo Cluster of galaxies. The Coma Cluster (Abell 1656) is 230 to 300 million light-years away. It is one of the largest known clusters, with at least 10,000 galaxies (mainly elliptical, with a few spiral galaxies).[74] Due to its distance from Earth, most of the galaxies are visible only through large telescopes. Its brightest members are NGC 4874 and NGC 4889, both with a magnitude of 13; most others are magnitude 15 or dimmer. NGC 4889 is a giant elliptical galaxy with one of the largest known black holes (21 billion solar masses),[75] and NGC 4921 is the cluster's brightest spiral galaxy.[76] After observing the Coma Cluster, astronomer Fritz Zwicky first postulated the existence of dark matter during the 1930s.[74] The massive galaxy Dragonfly 44 discovered in 2015 was found to consist almost entirely of dark matter.[77] Its mass is very similar to that of the Milky Way,[77] but it emits only 1% of the light emitted by the Milky Way.[78]NGC 4676, sometimes called the Mice Galaxies, is a pair of interacting galaxies 300 million light-years from Earth. Its progenitor galaxies were spiral, and astronomers estimate that they had their closest approach about 160 million years ago. That approach triggered large regions of star formation in both galaxies, with long "tails" of dust, stars and gas. The two progenitor galaxies are predicted to interact significantly at least one more time before they merge into a larger, probably-elliptical galaxy.[79]

Virgo Cluster

Messier 100 taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.[80]
Messier 100 taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.[80]

Coma Berenices contains the northern portion of the Virgo Cluster (also known as the Coma–Virgo Cluster), about 60 million light-years away. The portion includes six Messier galaxies. M85 (NGC 4382), considered elliptical or lenticular, is one of the cluster's brighter members at magnitude nine. M85 is interacting with the spiral galaxy NGC 4394 and the elliptical galaxy MCG-3-32-38.[65] M88 (NGC 4501) is a multi-arm spiral galaxy seen at about 30° from edge-on. It has a highly-regular shape with well-developed, symmetrical arms. Among the first galaxies recognized as spiral,[81] it has a supermassive black hole in its center.[65] M91 (NGC 4548), a barred spiral galaxy with a bright, diffuse nucleus, is the faintest object in Messier's catalog at magnitude 10.2.[82] M98 (NGC 4192), a bright, elongated spiral galaxy seen nearly edge-on, appears elliptical because of its unusual angle. The magnitude-10 galaxy has no redshift.[83] M99 (NGC 4254) is a spiral galaxy seen face-on. Like M98 it is of magnitude-10 and has an unusually long arm on its west side. M100 (NGC 4321), a magnitude-nine spiral galaxy seen face-on, is one of the cluster's brightest.[59] Photographs reveal a brilliant core, two prominent spiral arms, an array of secondary arms and several dust lanes.

Other galaxies

M64 (Black Eye Galaxy)
M64 (Black Eye Galaxy)

M64 (NGC 4826) is known as the Black Eye Galaxy because of the prominent dark dust lane in front of the galaxy's bright nucleus. Also known as the Sleeping Beauty and Evil Eye galaxy,[84] it is about 24 million light-years away. Recent studies indicate that the interstellar gas in the galaxy's outer regions rotates in the opposite direction from that in the inner regions, leading astronomers to believe that at least one satellite galaxy collided with it less than a billion years ago. All other evidence of the smaller galaxy has been assimilated. At the interface between the clockwise- and counterclockwise-rotating regions are many new nebulae and young stars.[79]

NGC 4314 is a face-on barred spiral galaxy at a distance of 40 million light-years. It is unique for its region of intense star formation, creating a ring around its nucleus which was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy's prodigious star formation began five million years ago, in a region with a diameter of 1,000 light-years. The core's structure is also unique because the galaxy has spiral arms which feed gas into the bar.[79]

NGC 4414 is an unbarred spiral flocculent galaxy about 62 million light-years away. It is one of the closest flocculent spiral galaxies.[85]

NGC 4565 is an edge-on spiral galaxy which appears superimposed on the Virgo Cluster. NGC 4565 has been nicknamed the Needle Galaxy because when seen in full, it appears as a narrow streak of light.[86] Like many edge-on spiral galaxies, it has a prominent dust lane and a central bulge.

NGC 4651, about the size of the Milky Way, has tidal stellar streams gravitationally stripped from a smaller, satellite galaxy.[87] It is about 62 million light-years away.[87]

Spiral galaxy Malin 1 discovered in 1986 is the first known giant low-surface-brightness galaxy.[88] With UGC 1382, it is also one of the largest low-surface-brightness galaxies.[88]

In 2006 a dwarf galaxy, also named Coma Berenices, was discovered in the constellation. The galaxy is a faint satellite of the Milky Way.


HS 1216+5032 is a bright, gravitationally-lensed pair of quasars.[90] W Comae Berenices (or ON 231), a blazar in the constellation's northwest, was originally designated a variable star and later found to be a BL Lacertae object.[91] As of 2009, it had the most intense gamma ray spectrum of the sixty known gamma-ray blazars.[91]

Gamma-ray bursts

Print of two female nudes in the heavens
Luis Ricardo Falero's The Hair of Berenice (1886)

Some gamma-ray bursts occurred in Coma Berenices, particularly GRB 050509B on 9 May 2005[92] and GRB 080607 on 7 June 2008.[93] GRB 050509B, which lasted only 0.03 second, became the first short burst with a detected afterglow.[92]

Meteor shower

The Coma Berenicids meteor shower peaks around 18 January.[52] Despite the shower's low intensity (averaging one or two meteors per hour) its meteors are some of the fastest, with speeds up to 65 kilometres per second (40 mi/s).[52]

In culture

Since Callimachus' poem, Coma Berenices has been occasionally mentioned outside astronomy. In 1886, Spanish artist Luis Ricardo Falero created a mezzotint print personifying Coma Berenices alongside Virgo and Leo.[94] In 1892, the Russian poet Afanasy Fet made the constellation the subject of his short poem, composed for the Countess Natalya Sollogub.[95] The Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf wrote the lines "Your friend the comet combed his hair with the Leonids / Berenice let her hair hang down from the sky" in a 1933 poem.[96] American writer and folksinger Richard Fariña mentions Coma Berenices in his 1966 novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me, sardonically writing about content typical to upper-level astronomy coursework at Cornell: "It's the advanced courses give you trouble. Relativity principles, spiral nebula in Coma Berenices, that kind of hassle."[97] Francisco Guerrero, a 20th-century Spanish composer, wrote an orchestral work on the constellation in 1996. In 1999 Irish artist Alice Maher made a series of four oversize drawings, entitled Coma Berenices, of entwining black hair coils.[98]


  1. ^ Delporte had proposed standardising the constellation boundaries to the International Astronomical Union, who had agreed and gave him the lead role[31]
  2. ^ While parts of the constellation technically rise above the horizon to observers between 56°S and 77°S, stars within a few degrees of the horizon are to all intents and purposes unobservable.[29]
  3. ^ Objects of magnitude 6.5 are among the faintest visible to the unaided eye in suburban-rural transition night skies.[34]


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External links

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