Coma Berenices

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Constellation Coma Berenices (Latin for Berenice's Hair) is a traditional asterism that has since become a constellation. It is located near Leo, and was originally considered Leo's tail.


Notable features

Coma Berenices contains the North Galactic Pole, at right ascension 12h 51.42m and declination 27° 07.8′ (epoch J2000.0).

The constellation is not particularly bright, having no stars brighter than fourth magnitude. β Comae Berenices is the brightest star in the constellation, at magnitude 4.26m. It is intrinsically only a little brighter than our Sun, which gives us an idea of how faint the Sun would appear seen from only 27 light years away.

The second brightest star in Coma Berenices is named Diadem (α Comae Berenices), at magnitude 4.32m. It is the only star in the constellation with a common name, and it represents the gem in Berenice's crown. It is a binary star, with two components of almost equal magnitude. Because the orbital plane is so close to the Earth's line of sight, it was long suspected of being an eclipsing binary, but it now appears that the orbital tilt is 0.1° against the line of sight, so the stars do not eclipse each other as seen from Earth. Template:Inote

Missing image
Photograph of Coma Berenices.

The only other fourth magnitude star in Coma Berenices is γ, at magnitude 4.36m.

Over 200 variable stars are known in Coma Berenices, although many of them are obscure. FK Comae Berenices, which varies between magnitudes 8.14m and 8.33m over a period of 2.4 days, is the prototype for the FK Comae class of variable stars. It is believed that the variability of FK Comae stars is caused by large, cool spots on the rotating surface of the star. FS Comae Berenices is a semiregular variable that varies between magnitudes 5.3m and 6.1m over a period of 58 days. R Comae Berenices is a Mira variable star that varies between magnitudes 7.1m and 14.6m over a period of 363 days.

Notable deep sky objects

Although Coma Berenices is not a large constellation, it contains eight Messier objects. The constellation is quite rich in galaxies, containing the northern part of the Virgo cluster. There are also several globular clusters to be seen. These objects can be seen with minimal obscuration from dust because the constellation is not in the direction of the galactic plane. However, because of this fact, 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 Cluster

The Coma Berenices Cluster does not have a Messier or an NGC designation, but it is in the Melotte catalogue of open clusters, where it is designated Melotte 111 (Mel 111). It is a large, diffuse open cluster of stars that range between 5th and 10th magnitudes, including several of the naked eye stars in the constellation. The cluster is spread over a huge region, more than 5 degrees across, near γ Comae Berenices. The cluster has such a large apparent size because it is relatively nearby, only around 270 light years away.


A large number of galaxies are visible in Coma Berenices, including seven Messier objects.

Virgo cluster of galaxies

Coma Berenices contains the northern portion of the Virgo cluster (also known as the Coma-Virgo cluster), which is around 60 million light years away.

M100 is a spiral galaxy seen face-on. At 7 arcminutes across, it has the largest apparent size of any galaxy in the Virgo cluster. It is of magnitude 9.4m and is around 56 million light-years away. Its diameter is over 120,000 light years, making it among the largest spiral galaxies in the Virgo cluster. Photographs reveal a brilliant core, two prominent spiral arms and an array of secodary ones, as well as several dust lanes.

M85 is a lenticular galaxy that is the northernmost outlier of the Virgo cluster. It is one of the brighter members of the cluster. M98 (NGC 4192) is a bright, elongated spiral that is seen nearly edge-on. It has a small nucleus and faint but vast spiral arms. M99 (NGC 4254), about 1.5° southeast of M98, is a bright, round spiral seen face-on. R.H. Allen called it the "Pinwheel nebula", although this name is more often applied to Spiral galaxy M33.
Missing image
M88 (NGC 4501)
M88 (NGC 4501) is a multi-arm spiral galaxy, seen about 30° from edge-on.
Missing image
M91 (NGC 4548)
M91 is another spiral galaxy that is usually identified with NGC 4548.

Coma cluster of galaxies

The Coma cluster of galaxies is to the north of the Virgo cluster. It is much further away, however, around 230 to 300 million light years away. The cluster is quite large, containing 1,000 large galaxies and possibly up to 30,000 smaller ones. A survey by Franz Zwicky in 1957 identified 29,951 galaxies in the area that are brighter than magnitude 19.0m. While some of these may be distant background objects, the total number of galaxies in the cluster is quite large.

Due to the great distance to the cluster, most of the galaxies are only visible in large telescopes. The brightest members are NGC 4889 and NGC 4874, both of which are of thirteenth magnitude, with most of the other members being of fifteenth magnitude or dimmer. NGC 4889 is a giant elliptical galaxy.

Other galaxies

Missing image
M64, the Black Eye Galaxy

M64 (NGC 4826) is known as the Black Eye Galaxy because of its prominent dark dust lane in front of the galaxy's bright nucleus. It is relatively nearby, at around 17 million light years away from Earth. Recent studies have revealed that the interstellar gas in the outer regions of the galaxy rotates in the opposite direction from that in the inner regions, leading astronomers to believe that at least one satellite galaxy had collided with it less than a billion years ago.

NGC 4565 is a spiral galaxy that is seen edge-on, and is called the "Needle Galaxy" for that reason. With an apparent length of 16 arcminutes, it has the largest apparent size of any galaxy seen edgewise from Earth. It appears quite thin and has a dark dust lane.


Quasar PG1247+26° is the brightest quasar visible in Coma Berenices. As well, W Com was originally identified as a variable star and so given a variable star designation, but later discovered to be a BL Lacertae object. It is normally around magnitude 16.5m, but has been known to reach 12th magnitude.

Globular clusters

M53 (NGC 5024) is a globular cluster that was discovered by J.E. Bode in 1775 and independently by Charles Messier in February 1777. It is of magnitude 7.7m, making it visible in binoculars. It is around 65,000 light years away and its total luminosity is around 200,000 times that of the Sun. Only 1° away is NGC 5053, a globular cluster that is sparser and has a less dense nucleus of stars. Its total luminosity is around 16,000 suns, which is one of the lowest luminosities of any globular cluster. It was discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1784. It is around magnitude 9.9m. NGC 4147 is a somewhat dimmer (magnitude 10.2m) globular cluster with a much smaller apparent size.

History and mythology

Coma Berenices has been known as an distinct asterism since ancient Greek times. Eratosthenes referred to the it as both "Ariadne's Hair" and "Berenices' Hair". Ptolemy referred to it as "the lock" (of hair); however, he did not list it as one of his 48 constellations, considering it as part of Leo. For many years, Coma Berenices was considered usually as the tuft in Leo's tail, or sometimes as part of Virgo.

During the 16th century, a few maps that were made of the sky pictured two new constellations, including Coma Berenices. Tycho Brahe, who is usually given credit for the creation of the constellation, listed it as a distinct constellation in his star catalogue of 1602, and it appeared in Johann Bayer's Uranometria of 1603.

Missing image
Queen Berenice II of Egypt
Even though this constellation is a modern constellation, it is associated with a charming legend. It is one of the few constellations (with Scutum) to owe its name to a historical figure, in this case Queen Berenice II of Egypt, wife of Ptolemy III Euergetes (fl. 246 BC - 221 BC), the king under whom Alexandria became an important cultural center.

Circa 243 BC, the king undertook a dangerous expedition against the Syrians, who had murdered his sister. Berenice swore to the goddess Aphrodite to sacrifice her famous long hair, of which she was extremely proud, if her husband returned safely. He did, and she had her hair cut and placed it in the goddess' temple.

By the next morning the hair had disappeared. To appease the furious king and queen (and save the lives of the temple priests), the court astronomer, Conon, announced that the offering had so pleased the goddess that she had placed it in the sky. He indicated a cluster of stars that at the time were identified as Leo's tail, but which have since been called Berenice's Hair.

Table of leading stars

The following table lists all stars in Coma Berenices with a Bayer designation or Flamsteed designation.

Common name Bayer designation Flamsteed designation Variable designation Other designations Right ascension Declination Apparent magnitude
1 12h 01m 44.3s +22° 05′ 40″ 6.59
2 Σ1596, ADS 8406 12h 04m 16.6s +21° 27′ 33″ 5.87
3 12h 10m 31.6s +16° 48′ 33″ 6.39
4 12h 11m 51.2s +25° 52′ 13″ 5.66
5 12h 12m 09.3s +20° 32′ 31″ 5.57
6 12h 16m 00.2s +14° 53′ 56″ 5.10
7 12h 16m 20.5s +23° 56′ 43″ 4.95
8 12h 19m 19.1s +23° 02′ 05″ 6.27
9 12h 19m 29.6s +28° 09′ 25″ 6.33
10 12h 19m 50.6s +28° 27′ 52″ 6.69
11 ADS 8521 12h 20m 43.0s +17° 47′ 34″ 4.74
12 ADS 8530 12h 22m 30.3s +25° 50′ 46″ 4.81
13 GN 12h 24m 18.5s +26° 05′ 55″ 5.18v
14 12h 26m 24.1s +27° 16′ 06″ 4.95
γ 15 12h 26m 56.3s +28° 16′ 06″ 4.36
16 12h 26m 59.3s +26° 49′ 32″ 5.00
17 AI ADS 8568 12h 28m 54.7s +25° 54′ 46″ 5.29v
18 12h 29m 26.9s +24° 06′ 32″ 5.48
20 12h 29m 43.2s +20° 53′ 46″ 5.69
21 UU 12h 31m 00.6s +24° 34′ 02″ 5.46v
22 12h 33m 34.2s +24° 16′ 59″ 6.29
23 12h 34m 51.1s +22° 37′ 45″ 4.81
24 Σ1657, ADS 8600 12h 35m 07.0s +18° 22′ 38″ 4.79
25 12h 36m 58.3s +17° 05′ 22″ 5.68
26 12h 39m 07.3s +21° 03′ 45″ 5.46
27 12h 46m 38.7s +16° 34′ 39″ 5.12
28 12h 48m 14.3s +13° 33′ 11″ 6.56
29 12h 48m 54.2s +14° 07′ 21″ 5.70
30 ADS 8674 12h 49m 17.4s +27° 33′ 08″ 5.78
31 12h 51m 41.9s +27° 32′ 26″ 4.94
32 12h 52m 12.3s +17° 04′ 26″ 6.32
33 12h 52m 22.9s +17° 06′ 30″ 6.94
35 Σ1687, ADS 8695 12h 53m 17.8s +21° 14′ 42″ 4.90
36 12h 58m 55.4s +17° 24′ 34″ 4.78
37 ADS 8731 13h 00m 16.5s +30° 47′ 06″ 4.90
38 13h 01m 09.6s +17° 07′ 23″ 5.96
39 13h 06m 21.2s +21° 09′ 12″ 5.99
40 FS 13h 06m 22.6s +22° 36′ 58″ 5.60v
41 13h 07m 10.7s +27° 37′ 29″ 4.80
Diadem α 42 Σ1728, ADS 8804 13h 09m 59.3s +17° 31′ 46″ 4.32
β 43 13h 11m 52.4s +27° 52′ 41″ 4.26


Stars with proper names:
  • Diadem or Al Dafirah (42/α Com) – double 4.32, 5.22
    < diadēma < διαδημα
    < الضفيرة ađ̧-đ̧afīrah The braid
Stars with Bayer designations:
43/β Com 4.23; 15/γ Com 4.35
Stars with Flamsteed designations:
1 Com 6.57; 2 Com 5.89; 3 Com 6.40; 4 Com 5.66; 5 Com 5.60; 6 Com 5.09; 7 Com 4.93; 8 Com 6.26; 9 Com 6.38; 10 Com 6.64; 11 Com 4.72; 12 Com – double 4.78, 8.6; 13 Com 5.17; 14 Com 4.92; 16 Com 4.98; 17 Com – double 5.29, 6.63; 18 Com 5.47; 20 Com 5.68; 21 Com 5.47; 22 Com 6.28; 23 Com 4.80; 24 Com – double 5.03, 6.57; 25 Com 5.70; 26 Com 5.49; 27 Com 5.12; 28 Com 6.47; 29 Com 5.71; 30 Com 5.76; 31 Com 4.93; 32 Com 6.32; 35 Com 4.89; 36 Com 4.76; 37 Com 4.88; 38 Com 5.97; 39 Com 6.00; 40 Com 5.53; 41 Com 4.80

Galaxies in Coma Berenices


Template:ConstellationsChangedByBayer Template:ConstellationList Template:Commonsde:Haar der Berenike (Sternbild) es:Coma Berenices eo:Berenica Hararo fr:Chevelure de Brnice ga:Folt Bheirnic ko:머리털자리 id:Coma Berenices it:Coma Berenices la:Coma Berenices nl:Coma Berenices ja:かみのけ座 pl:Warkocz Bereniki (gwiazdozbir) pt:Coma Berenices ru:Волосы Вероники (созвездие) fi:Bereniken hiukset sv:Berenikes hr th:กลุ่มดาวผมเบเรนิซ


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