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(Berenice's Hair)

While not a show stopper, Coma Berenices is interesting for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is one of the few star clusters visible to the naked eye.

Coma Berenices Star Cluster

Ancient legend has it that Berenices, queen of Egypt, pledged her golden tresses if her husband returned safely from a battle. He did and the gods placed her hair high in the Spring sky for all the world to see.

At a distance of about 250 light years, the Coma group is one of the nearest of all star clusters. There are about 40 members all traveling as a group.

Coma Cluster Finder Chart

Assuming you can find the Big Dipper, Coma Berenices will be found by more or less tracing a line down from the two diagonal stars in the cup of the dipper. The stars in the handle trace down to Arcturus and Coma lies in the area indicated between it and the dipper.

Being "visible to the naked eye" requires a bit of explanation in these days of rampant artificial lighting and the light pollution it causes. When the constellation was named in the "good old days" it was very conspicuous and demanded a name but would not even be noticed by the average person today.

Seeing it requires a fairly dark sky and a knowledge of where to look. Look for a fuzzy patch about 5 times as large as the Moon. A pair of binoculars is a big help and provides a beautiful view even if you can not see it with the naked eye. My guess is that is about what it looked like to the ancients who had no optical aid.

One other point, we can not blame man for moonlight but it is just as devastating to dim objects as artificial lights so don't even bother trying to find it when the moon is out.

Technical Details of photo:

This was a 30 minute exposure on hypered Techpan taken with a 135 mm camera lens mounted in a 4 x 5" AstroCamera.

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