Coma Berenices represents the hair of Berenice II, queen of Eqypt and wife of 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. Surprisingly, this constellation is not one of the 48 that 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy cataloged. As a naked eye object, this constellation is not much to behold. Its three main stars are rather dim, and the form of the constellation is rather nondescript. It can be found nestled among the intersection of Leo, Virgo, and Bootes, and it reaches its highest nightfall ascension in May.
With binocular or telescopic aid, Coma Berenices is a wonder to behold. Most notable is the large Coma Berenices Open Cluster (Melotte 111). This star cluster is comprised of about fifty stars that are spread over a five-degree (the width of ten full moons) area of the sky. To look at Coma Berenices with binoculars is to see this cluster. This constellation is also home to the northern portion of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster where several Messier galaxies can be found, to include M85, M88, M91, M98, M99, and M100. There are two other named galaxies in Coma Berenices, the Black Eye galaxy (M64) and the Needle galaxy (NGC 4565).
© James R. Johnson, 2014.