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05/21/2020 – Ephemeris – A star cluster in a most unusual spot

May 21, 2020 Leave a comment

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, May 21st. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 3 minutes, setting at 9:11, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:07. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 6:16 tomorrow morning.

High in the south at 10:30 p.m. or so is a tiny and faint constellation of Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s hair. In it are lots of faint stars arrayed to look like several strands of hair. The whole group will fit in the field of a pair of binoculars, which will also show many more stars. The hank of hair supposed belonged to Berenice II, Queen of Egypt, in the 3rd century BCE. Coma Berenices is the second closest star cluster to us at only 250 light years away, after the Hyades, the face of Taurus the bull a winter constellation. It’s in an odd spot for a galactic star cluster, which are supposed to lie in the plane of the Milky Way. It’s actually seen at the galactic pole, as far as possible away from the milky band. It’s a matter of perspective because it’s so close to us. It’s still really in the plane of the Milky Way.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Coma Berenices and the galactic pole

Coma Berenices and galactic coordinated showing how close to the galactic pole it is. The bright star Arcturus at the left edge.  Leo’s hind end is at the lower right. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Coma Berenices

Approximate 7 power binocular field of view of the Coma Berenices Star Cluster. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Note: There is another cluster in the constellation.  It’s called the Coma Cluster.  It’s a cluster of over a thousand galaxies a bit over 300 million light years away.

04/23/2019 – Ephemeris – The story of Coma Berenices

April 23, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 23rd. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 52 minutes, setting at 8:37, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:43. The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 1:24 tomorrow morning.

High in the southeast at 10 p.m. is a tiny and faint constellation of Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s hair. In it are lots of faint stars arrayed to look like several strands of hair. The whole group will fit in the field of a pair of binoculars, which will also show many more stars. The hank of hair was supposed to belong to Berenice, a real Queen of Egypt, of the 3rd century BCE. who cut off her golden tresses and offered them to the gods for the safe return of her husband from war. Her husband did return safe, and at that same time her hair disappeared from the temple. The oracle of the temple pointed to this constellation showing that her sacrifice was enshrined in the stars.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Coma Berinices

Coma Berenices and neighboring constellations at 10 p.m. on April 16, 2015. Note that only the upper right star of the upside down L shape actually belongs to the cluster. Created using Stellarium.

Berenice coin