Constellation of Coma Berenices
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Coma Berenices
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Image and text ©2008 Akira Fujii/David Malin Images.

In the picture above, north is at the top and the image covers 33.5 x 41.8 degrees.
Image centre is located at 12:27:11.3, +26:17:30 (H:M:S, D:M:S, J2000) Astrometric data from Astrometry.net.

Coma Berenices
Best seen in the early evening in May

Coma Berenice's (Berenices Hair) would be as insignificant as many of Lacaille's southern sky inventions if it were not for the subtle but distinctive Coma Star Cluster (Melotte 111), 270 light years away. The constellation's name alludes to the flowing hair of Queen Berenices of Egypt, allegedly cut off in gratitude for the safe return of her husband from some military escapade. This constellation was once considered to be part of Leo, where the hairy smudge of the open cluster was regarded as the tuft of the lion's tail.

Melotte 111 is is a large, open cluster of stars ranging between 5th magnitude (barely visible) to 10th magnitude, 100 times fainter. It extends over 5 degrees and despite the faintness of its constituent stars is clearly visible as a hazy patch in an otherwise undistinguished part of the sky. Coma is the direction of the north galactic pole, where we look beyond our galaxy through relatively few foreground stars. Had Melotte 111 been in the Milky Way it would be hard to see.

Named star in Coma Berenices: Diadem (α Com),

Adjoining constellations: Bo÷tes, Canes Venatici, Leo, Ursa Major, Virgo.

Related images (other sources)
AAT 58.     NGC 4321, M100 in Coma Berenices
AAT 59.     Dwarf galaxies around NGC 4321 (M100) in Coma Berenices

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David Malin, 2009 October 15