Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Husband's Astrophotography--24 Comae Berenices

Here's hubby's pic (using our singularly not-up-to-snuff digital camera on his magnificent 10" tracking telescope) of 24 Comae Berenices (apparently Berenices is the name of the constellation and 24 Comae Berenices is the binary star in that constellation). Apparently figuring out the smallest separation of stars one can split using their equipment is the astronomer's equivilant of 'mine is bigger than yours,' 'my dad can beat up your dad,' and the ever popular pissing contest. I joke, of course, because amateur astronomers would never do that kind of thing--though it could explain a lot of those who end up spending $50K on this hobby.

The constellation Coma Berenices refers to a classical story concerning the hair of Berenice, the wife of Ptolemy III of Egypt. While the story is an old one, the constellation is relatively new, being introduced by Tycho Brahe (1546-1601).
According to the story, Ptolemy had waged a long war on the Assyrians, since it was they who had killed his sister. As Ptolemy returned successfully from the war, his wife Berenice had her beautiful tresses ceremoniously clipped and given to Aphrodite, laid out on the temple altar.

As the evening's festivities continued, the shorn hair was discovered to be missing. The priests might be sacrificed, if the queen's hair couldn't be found. It was the astronomer Conon of Samos who came to their rescue - proclaiming that Aphrodite had accepted the gift of Berenice's hair, which now shown brightly in the heavens next to Leo.


24 Comae is even more spectacular: a fixed binary with an orange primary and emerald component. (5.2, 6.5; PA 271ยบ, separation 20.3").
This binary is located eight degrees west of alpha Comae and one degree north.

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