Friday, May 24, 2013

COMA BERENICES - Berenice's Hair

So what is the deal with the Mop of Hair that was in the picture next to Bootes (see post from May 7)??? That's Berenice's Hair, a small, faint constellation visible in the spring and summer from really dark skies.

In Greek mythology Berenice was the beautiful Queen of Egypt known for her flowing tresses. When her husband went off to war, Berenice asked Aphrodite to protect her beloved in battle. In return, if he returned to her safely, she would cut off her long hair as a gift to the goddess. When the king returned unharmed to her side, Berenice stayed true to her word and lopped it all off. The hair was placed in the temple where it mysteriously disappeared. What cur took the Queen's beautiful hair? Who dared?

Heads were going to roll (not to mention hair), if the culprit was found. Luckily a court astronomer came to the rescue - he found the missing locks. The hair was such a pleasing sacrifice to Aphrodite that SHE took it and placed it in the sky for all to see. So now the glory a Berenice's hair has reached new heights and lives on in the stars.

You can best find this constellation in a very dark sky.  If you're far from city lights you can't miss the tangles of stars just to the right of Bootes and above Virgo.  Binoculars help too.  Scan the sky to the right of the bright star Arcturus and you should see a mass of stars.  Lots of locks!