Constellation Coma Berenices (Bernice's Hair)

Coma Berenices
Coma Berenices: IAU Constellation Map [150]


The main part of the royal hair is formed by a loose star cluster with around 30 members, the so-called Coma star cluster (Mel 111), which is a few degrees wide and can best be seen in binoculars or in a very dark area. Coma Berenices is located west of the bright star Arcturus from the constellation Bootes. The brightest stars belong to the 5th and 6th magnitude and form a conspicuous V. The cluster, whose stars are around 250 light-years away, is close to gamma Comae, which itself, however, probably does not belong to the cluster. Above that, the constellation contains another type of cluster - a cluster of galaxies about 400 million light years away. The constellation Coma Berenices occupies a place of 386 square degrees in the sky. It culminates around midnight on April 2nd. [7, 9, 15]

Stars with Proper Names [154]
α Com Diadem
Data for constellation Coma Berenices [150]
IAU NameComa Berenices
IAU GenitiveComae Berenices
IAU Abbr.Com
English NameBernice's Hair
Season (47° N)December … July
Right Ascension11h 58m 25s … 13h 36m 07s
Declination+13° 18' 15" … +33° 18' 27"
Area386 deg2
Neighbours (N↻)CVn, UMa, Leo, Vir, Boo

Deep-Sky Object Descriptions


Constellations Coma Berenices, Bootes and Corona
Constellations Coma Berenices, Bootes and Corona: Illustration from «Prodromus Astronomiae» by Johannes Hevelius, 1690. Mirrored view from «outside of the celestial sphere» [19]

Mythology and History

The folklore that we know today about the constellation Coma Berenices comes from ancient Egypt. The legends tell of Queen Berenice, daughter of King Maegerse from Cyrene. She was so troubled that her husband, King Ptolemaeus Euergetes, had gone to war against the Assyrians. She vowed to sacrifice her beautiful, long, flowing hair to the god of beauty when her king came back safe and sound. The king came back and Berenice had to keep her promise. She cut her hair and placed it in a temple under the watchful eyes of the temple guards.

On a moonless night, when the whole country was shrouded in darkness, the king was seized with the urge to look at his wife's long, beautiful hair again. He went to the temple and met the temple guards. They told him that the hair had disappeared moments before. Before the king could get angry about the carelessness of the guards, they told him quickly that the gods had been so pleased with Queen Berenice's sacrifice that they gave their hair a place in the starry sky for all eternity. Then the guards pointed skyward at a beautiful, loose cluster of faint stars. The king was pleased that he could now see Berenice's hair whenever he felt like it. [89]

The legend comes from Greek times, but the constellation used to be added to either the constellation Leo or the constellation Virgo. It was not until the beginning of the 17th century, shortly before Tycho Brahe's death, that it was included in his catalog as an independent constellation. [7]


  • [7] «Der grosse Kosmos-Himmelsführer» von Ian Ridpath und Wil Tirion; Kosmos Verlag; ISBN 3-440-05787-9
  • [9] «Drehbare Sternkarte SIRIUS» von H. Suter-Haug; Hallwag-Verlag, Bern
  • [15] «Hartung's Astronomical Objects for Southern Telescopes» by David Malin and David J. Frew; Melbourne University Press 1995; ISBN 0-522-84553-3
  • [19] «Prodromus Astronomiae» Johannes Hevelius, 1690; DOI:10.3931/e-rara-456
  • [89] The Starry Sky: Coma Berenices by Deborah Byrd; Astronomy 4/96, p.62
  • [150] IAU: The Constellations, 11. Oktober 2020;
  • [154] Yale Bright Star Catalog, 15. Oktober 2020;