History of the Constellations

Stars and Constellations

Coma Berenices

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Contents of this page: | Description | Skylore | Modern Culture | Origin and History | Star Clusters | Galaxies | Submit new info... |

Images (at bottom of page): | Coma Berenices Chart: (Figure 1) | Bode, 1801, page r: (Figure 2) | Aspin, 1825, page Bootes: (Figure 3) | Images digitized by Hannah Magruder.

Constellation Data


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.

Skylore and Literature

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.

Modern Culture

Origin and History

Created by Gerard Mercator in 1551.

Star Clusters

M53 (Globular cluster), mag. 7.8.


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.

Submit new info...

Many excellent websites provide a variety of information about constellations for amateur astronomers and telescope users (see sidebar links for a few of these). These constellation pages are not intended to duplicate those efforts, but are devoted to two aims: First, they are intended to assist the beginning skywatcher, including students in history of science survey courses, in becoming familiar with Basic Celestial Phenomena (BCP). Second, these pages are devoted to the history of the constellations and the history of astronomy. They are intended to serve as a repository for collaborative use and reference. Do you have additional historical information about the stars or constellation described on this page? Please submit additional information to kmagruder@ou.edu. Submissions will be attributed. Editors for historical information are Kerry Magruder, JoAnn Palmeri, Peter Barker, and Laura Gibbs.

Oklahoma History of Science exhibits: http://hos.ou.edu/exhibits/. Page revised 4/15/04

Bad links, misplaced images, or questions? Contact Kerry Magruder. Thank you.

"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown. But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile." R. W. Emerson, Nature


Figure 1 Figure 1 - Return to Text

Com Chart
Figure 2 Figure 2 - Return to Text

Bode, 1801

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Figure 3 Figure 3 - Return to Text

Aspin, 1825

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Exhibit credit: Kerry Magruder.

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These teaching resources provided by the History of Science Department at the University of Oklahoma.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries. Image Terms of Use.

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