The golden tresses of Queen Berenice adorn the sky on spring evenings. They form the constellation Coma Berenices, a spray of stars that's high in the east at nightfall. Legend says that Berenice offered her hair as a sacrifice to the gods to ensure the safe return of her husband. The gods placed the beautiful locks in the heavens.
If you look deep into the constellation, you'll see that the locks have some beautiful decorations -- clusters of galaxies. A team of astronomers is using Hubble Space Telescope to study one of the clusters -- the Coma Cluster -- to learn more about how galaxies in clusters evolve and interact.
The Coma Cluster is a good target for such a study because it contains a lot of galaxies, and it's only about 300 million light-years away. At that distance, the galaxies and the material between them are relatively easy to see and study.
Astronomers can compare the Coma Cluster to others that are much farther away, which means we see them at a much younger age. Comparing galaxies in different environments helps explain how galaxies grow and change.
The Coma Cluster contains several thousand galaxies, of all varieties -- from little puffs of stars, to monsters that are many times larger and more massive than our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
If you have a small telescope, you can pick out a few of Coma's galaxies yourself -- beautiful decorations for a queen's hair.
More about the Coma Cluster tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.