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- Astrotrac 360 tracking platform – first impression
- FIELD TEST: CARL ZEISS APOCHROMATIC & SHARPEST (CZAS) BINOVIEWER
- Omegon 32mm 70º SWA eyepiece review
- Review of iPolar hardware and software for polar alignment
- Review of the Hubble Optics 14 inch, f/4.6 Premium Ultra Light Dobsonian Tele...
- My experience with the Starizona Landing Pad
- A quick Review of the MIGHTY MAX 12V 100AH BATTERY
- Nexus II Review
- New Moon Telescopes 20”F/3.3 Review
- FIELD TEST OF THE BAADER MAXBRIGHT® II BINOVIEWER
- My Experience using SkyWatch for the Alphea All Sky Camera from Alcor Systems
- Astroart 7 - A Review and "How To" (Part 1)
- My experience using two 80-millimeter long-focus refractors
- GSO 8-inch TRUE CASSEGRAIN
CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.
Binocular Universe: Berenice's Hair
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Berenice's HairMay 2010
III Euergetes ("Benefactor"), the third ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty
to legend, his queen, Berenice of Cyrene (depicted on the coin at left), was
known across the land for her long, beautiful hair.
One day, as her husband rode off to do battle in the Third Syrian War,
Berenice vowed to the goddess Aphrodite that she would sacrifice her flowing
locks if her husband came back to her safely.
When he returned, Berenice kept her promise by cutting off her hair and
presenting it to the gods.
long after it was placed in the temple, however, the hair mysteriously vanished.
The royal couple was incensed. Thinking
quickly, Conon of Samos, Ptolemy's court astronomer, pointed to the night sky,
toward our constellation of Coma Berenices, and assured the king and queen that
it was Aphrodite who had taken the hair, to place it among the stars for the
whole world to see. Ptolemy and
Berenice must not have been stargazers, as they had never noticed the faint mist
of light Conon pointed to. But they were satisfied that Aphrodite was
behind the hair caper.
Above: Spring star map adapted from Star Watch by Phil Harrington
Conon imagined as his queen's heavenly tresses is actually a collection of 5th-
and 6th-magnitude stars spanning almost 5° of sky.
Today, we know this group as the Coma
Berenices Star Cluster. The
cluster also goes by the catalog number Melotte 111, its numerical entry
in Philibert Jacques Melotte's listing of 245 open star clusters entitled A
Catalogue of Star Clusters Shown on the Franklin-Adams Chart Plates,
published in 1915.
Above: Finder chart for this month's Binocular Universe. Chart adapted from Touring the Universe through Binoculars Atlas (TUBA), www.philharrington.net/tuba.htm
it spans such a large area of our sky, Melotte 111 is best appreciated through
7x and 8x binoculars. Telescopes
can't possibly grasp the grandeur of the Coma Star Cluster because of their
comparatively high magnifications and narrow fields of view.
Even some 10x binoculars have fields that are too narrow to drink it all
brightest stars in the Coma Star Cluster form a pattern that resembles the
lower-case Greek letter Lambda or, if you're viewing from south of the equator,
Gamma. You might also notice a
sinuous curve of fainter stars arcing away from the Lambda's west.
Together, they remind of some of the classic "photos" of the
Loch Ness Monster. The Lambda stars
represent the monster's arched back, while the faint arc is the monster's long
neck and head.
cluster members shine perfectly white, although a few give subtle hints of
yellow or orange. For instance, the
sun marking the top of the Lambda, labeled 15 Comae, is a golden type K
star. And although it's not a
cluster member, 4 Comae to the west also displays a subtle yellowish tint
through binoculars. Try slightly
defocusing the image to enhance the subtle colors.
are also several double stars within Melotte 111, although only 17 Comae
is easily resolvable in binoculars. Found
a bit to the east of the cluster's center, 17 consist of two type-A suns.
Take a look for the 6th-magnitude companion star about 2.5' west-southwest
of the 5th-magnitude primary.
Left: The Coma Berenices Star Cluster, as drawn through the author's wide-field 7x50 binoculars. The brightest stars in the center form a pattern resembling the Greek letter Lambda, while the curve of fainter stars to the right (west) remind the author of a sea
monster's long neck.
confuse the Coma Star Cluster with the Coma-Virgo Galaxy Cluster.
Even though the names are quite similar, they refer to two completely
different things. The galaxy cluster
is a grand collection of as many of 2,000 separate island universes located 60
million light years away. By
contrast, the Coma Star Cluster is well within our own Milky Way galaxy.
In fact, the Coma Star Cluster is one of the closest open clusters to our
solar system. Measurements made by
the European Space Agency's HIPPARCHOS spacecraft reveal that the cluster stars
lay an average of 288 light years away, and are estimated to be about 400
million years old. These same
studies find that the stars show neither a blue shift nor a red shift.
That means the cluster is moving in the same direction through the Milky
Way as our solar system. Could that
point to a common origin, despite our Sun's advanced age?
several members of the Coma-Virgo Galaxy Cluster are on the fringe of visibility
through steadily held binoculars under dark skies. You'll
find five of them, including the famous Black-Eye Galaxy, M64, plotted on
the map here and listed below. See
how many you can find tonight!
Have a question, a
comment, or a suggestion for future columns?
I'd love to hear it. Post
your observations in this column's discussion forum or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
month, we'll pay a call on two of spring's finest globular clusters, and bump
into an asterism or two along the way. Until
we meet again in June, remember that two eyes are better than one.
About the Author:
Phil Harrington, author of Touring the
Universe through Binoculars, is currently completing a new
observing guide of challenging observing targets entitled Cosmic
Challenge for Cambridge University Press, which will be published
in October 2010. Visit his web site at www.philharrington.net for more
information as well as for other monthly binocular targets.
for more information as well as for other monthly binocular targets.
Phil Harrington's Binocular Universe is copyright 2010 by Philip S. Harrington. All rights reserved. No reproduction, in whole or in part, beyond single copies for use by an individual, is permitted without written permission of the copyright holder.