The Heavens Declare
J. Preston Eby
[Coma Berenices is positioned to the side of Virgo and is one of the decans (each constellation has 3 additional parts or decans) of that sign. Although technically not above her head, it is interesting for other reasons as stated below.]
Although a faint constellation of the northern hemisphere it is quite interesting. A part of the Virgo-Cluster of galaxies swaps over to Coma Berenices. So often this galaxy cluster is called Virgo-Coma-Cluster. Coma Berenices is sandwiched between the Hunting Dogs, Canes Venatici to the north, Virgo to the south, Leo on the west border and Bootes on the east border. The galactic northpole is located in this constellation.
Stars and other objects
The leading star of this constellation, alpha Com, also known as Diadem, is a binary which cannot be split into its components by amateur telescopes.
[Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:
1binary: something made of two things or parts
2binary: 3b: involving a choice or condition of two alternatives (as on-off, yes-no)
diadem: 1. crown; specif: a royal headband; 2. regal power or dignity]
The loose collection of stars below gamma Com is known as the Coma Star Cluster. These about 30 stars form a triangular shaped group and are best observed with binoculars. The brightest members are about 5th mag. In small telescopes M 53 appears as a misty patch. One of the most famous of the galaxies in this constellation is the Black Eye Galaxy, M64. It got its name from the dark patch of dust near its center.
Constellation Coma Berenices
...the constellation is relatively new, being introduced by Tycho Brahe (1546-1601).
Alpha Comae, sometimes called Diadem, has the same diameter as our Sun, and is 62 light years away...
Alpha Comae is a rapid binary of two equal stars (5.05, 5.08). The companion orbits every 25.87 years and is presently decreasing; in 2000 the separation will be less than 0.05". The orbit is an unusual one, seen perfectly edge-on.
The Coma Star Cluster [within Coma Berenice] is best seen in binoculars. It extends south of gamma Com (which belongs to the cluster) and was once known as the tuft of hair at the end of Leo's tail. This is the group of stars that now constitutes Berenice's golden tresses.
The region from Coma Berenices down through Virgo is renowned for its galaxies...
galaxy: 1b: one of billions of systems each including stars, nebulae, star clusters, globular clusters, and interstellar matter that make up the universe; 2: an assemblage of brilliant or notable persons or things.]
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