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Metaphor for a missing moment - I'm just a pretty boy, whatever you call it

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December 6th, 2003

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05:13 pm - Metaphor for a missing moment

[Gah, I just wanted to archive this bit of information somewhere, so that I can find it later. :-p]

Rising in the eastern skies about mid evening is the faint constellation, Coma Berenices, "Berenice's Hair". Undistinguished as it seems, this constellation has one significant feather in its cap: this is where the North Galactic Pole (NGP) is located in between stars Beta and Gamma. The galaxy like everything else in the Universe rotates around on an axis. Where the Earth spins every 24 hours, our galaxy takes about 20 million years for each rotation and the NGP is where the North Pole of the galaxy is aimed. The southern Galactic Pole is located in Sculptor. Since you are looking away from the galaxy you will see fewer bright stars than toward the body the Milky Way. But now you have a clear shot into extragalactic space revealing all many more galaxies that would otherwise be hidden by our own.

While Coma Berenices is one of the more modern constellations (created in 1551), the grouping was mentioned on occasion by the ancients. Frequently referred to both as the "hair" of either Ariadne or Queen Berenice of Egypt. Unlike most constellations this is one of the few that refers to a real person.

Berenice married her brother, Ptolemy III (as was Egyptian royal tradition) in the third century BC. A few days after her marriage Ptolemy went off to war. She promised him that if he were to return safely she would cut off her hair. He did, and so she did, placing it in the temple as a gift to the gods. The next day her hair mysteriously was gone, gone to the stars according to the court mathematician.

While dim in stars, Coma Berenices is a very fertile playground for astronomers, containing about half of the famous Coma-Virgo galactic cluster.

Why does it have to hurt so much?

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