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Coma Berenices

Coma Berenices
GenitiveComae Berenices
Meaning in EnglishBerenice's Hair
Right ascension12.76 h
Visible to latitudeBetween 90° and -16°
On meridian 9 p.m., May 15
 - Total
Ranked 42nd
386 sq. deg.
Number of stars with
apparent magnitude < 3
Brightest star
 - Apparent magnitude
Meteor showers
  • Coma Berenicids
Bordering constellations

Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair) is a traditional asterism that has since become a constellation. It is located near Leo.

Table of contents
1 Notable features
2 Notable deep sky objects
3 History and Mythology

Notable features

The brightest star in Coma Berenices (α Comae Berenices) is named Diadem; it represents the gem in Berenice's crown.

β Comae Berenices is 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.

Notable deep sky objects

Most of Coma Berenices' stars constitute an open cluster which is not listed in most catalogues because it is spread over a huge region, more than 5 degrees across, near γ Comae Berenices. This cluster is sometimes called Melotte 111.

History and Mythology

This constellation, originally an asterism, 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 Assyrians, 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.