In Episode SH017 of Star Hopping…
We’ll be exploring the Coma Berenices region, and using our star hopping methods to find the Sunflower Galaxy: Messier 63, the Black Eye Galaxy: Messier 64, and the Needle Galaxy: NGC4565.
So we’re continuing with our galaxy review of all the amazing targets currently rising into of the eastern sky. And we’re going to concentrate on a faint constellation that contains few stars, but loads of galaxies of all types, Coma Berenices, Coma lies between Canes Venatici and Virgo, and lies right on the northern fringes of the Realm of the Galaxies, which is, as I’ve mentioned lately, a supercluster of galaxies.
The incredible scale of this is just mind boggling. An average galaxy is home to between 100 and 500 MILLION stars. in this area of sky, the Virgo Supercluster, there are approximately 1500 separate galaxies! Ok, math assignment out there – with these numbers, post down below in the comments how many stars that is!
So after you put your calculators away and start looking through your scope again, you’ll see that as you scan through the Realm with a low power eyepiece in your telescope, it is not unusual to have 3 or 4 galaxies within the view at any one point. We’ll review the Realm in the next couple episodes of Star Hopping, and we won’t even begin to scratch the surface on what’s available for an intrepid Galaxy hunter.
But we’re still scanning around outside the main cluster itself, in northern Coma Berenices. So the galaxies are not as thick here, but no worries; some of the most amazing galactic targets in the sky can be found in this faint constellation.
Coma Berenices represents Bernice’s hair, the owner of which was the wife of Greek King Ptolemy. Queen Bernice promised to cut her long blond hair short, if her husband returned safely from a war. When he did indeed return safely, she did as she vowed, and placed her shorn locks on an altar. The hair mysteriously disappeared during the night, (probably taken by some groupie), but the theft angered the king and queen. The court astronomer, in order to appease the royals, announced that the offering had achieved such favor with the goddess Aphrodite, that she had placed the hair in the sky for everyone to see. He was perhaps one of the more clever and imaginative early astronomers, and he kept his job!
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Credits for this Episode
- Star Chart Images & Simulations Courtesy of SkySafari Astronomy http://SkySafariAstronomy.com.
- M63 image by David Hearn / Kissimmee Park Observatory
- M64 image by David Hearn / Kissimmee Park Observatory
- NGC 4565 image by Ken Crawford