Com - Coma Berenices the Hair of Berenice

Legend for constellation star maps, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott & Rick Fienberg), cc-by

Intro and Visual description

To the east of Leo is the constellation Coma Berenices (KOH-ma Bear-uhn-EE-chayz), which pictures the braided hair streaming down from the back of Berenice’s head. Between Leo, Virgo, and Bootes. Most stars are in a single cluster 250 light-years away.

Created by Gerard Mercator in 1551.

Coma Berenices is the only constellation named for a historical person. Berenice was the Queen of Ptolemy III in Egypt during the 3rd century B.C. For the safe return of her husband from war, Berenice cut off her hair as a thanksgiving sacrifice to Venus. Ptolemy was angered to find his wife without her beautiful hair until his astrologer declared that the gods had placed her braids among the stars.


Star Clusters

M53 (Globular cluster), mag. 7.8.
Dolan Coma Berenices page.


Looking in the direction of Coma Berenices and Virgo we gaze upon a "field of nebula" containing thousands of galaxies. The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are lonely stragglers millions of light years away from these giant clusters. If we were situated within any one of these galaxies, hundreds of neighboring galaxies would be visible in the sky as luminous balls of light brighter than the brightest stars visible here on Earth.
M64, Black Eye Galaxy (Spiral galaxy), mag. 8.5.

M85 (Elliptical galaxy), mag. 9.3.

M88 (Spiral galaxy), mag. 9.5.

M91 (Spiral glalaxy), mag. 9.5.

M98 (Spiral galaxy), mag. 10.2

M99 (Spiral galaxy), mag. 9.9.

M100 (Spiral galaxy), mag. 9.4.

One gigantic galaxy known as M87 contains 30 times as many stars as the Milky Way. It is closely attended by thousands of smaller clusters of stars. It may appear peaceful and serene in a small telescope, but its radio and x-ray emissions are enormous. Large telescopes reveal jets of material hurtling outward and rotating within, perhaps associated with a massive black hole at its center.

The Sombrero galaxy, M104, we see nearly edge-on, with its giant bulge rotating around the center. A huge black hole is believed to be hidden within this rare and wonderful cocoon of shining stars.

NGC 4565 is a classic edge-on spiral galaxy, often reproduced.




Constellation Info

Abbr: Com

Genitive: Comae Berenices

Size: 42 of 88

RA: 13 hours

Evening culmination (9 pm): May

Midnight Culmination: April

Decl: 25 degrees

Entirely visible from: N of -56° latitude

Partially visible from: between -77° and -56° latitude

Not visible at all from: S of -77° latitude


Bordering constellations:

Constellation - Names

Arabic: الهلبة

Chinese: 后髮座

English: Berenice's Hair

French: Chevelure de Bérénice

German: Haar der Berenike

Greek: Κόμη Βερενίκης

Hebrew: שיערות ברניקי

Italian: Chioma di Berenice

Latin: Coma Berenices

Russian: Волосы Вероники

Spanish: Pelo de Berenice

Related Asterisms