Coma Berenices

Berenice's Hair

Abbreviation: Com
Genitive: Comae Berenices

The constellation of Coma Berenices

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 BC, 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 Aphrodite. The hair disappeared from the goddess's temple and the court astronomer declared that the pleased Aphrodite had placed the hair in the sky.

This group of stars has been recognised as an asterism since Hellenistic times but was raised to constellation status in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. Both Dutch cartographer Gerardus Mercator and Danish nobleman Tycho Brahe are credited with elevating this asterism to a constellation.

Notable Features

Designation Name Description
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.
C36 This is yet another spiral galaxy in this constellation.
C38 Needle Galaxy This edge-on spiral galaxy sits almost directly above the north galactic pole of the Milky Way.
Cr 256 Coma Star Cluster This open cluster consists of a scattering of stars fanning out below the star γ Com.