Coma Berenices is best known for two clusters: The Coma Star Cluster (Melotte 111) and the 400 million light-years distant Coma Cluster of Galaxies. This galaxy cluster is similar to the much closer Virgo Cluster, but its members remain targets only for very large telescopes. The many galaxies which are visible in this constellation are usually also part of the Virgo Cluster. They can mostly be seen only in a giant binocular and with a little practice under really dark skies, so they are not described further in this book.
The galactic North Pole is located between the stars β and γ. It marks the northern pole of the coordinate system in which the galactic plane defines the equator.
M 53 is 65,000 light-years from Earth and is the only brighter globular cluster in this constellation. It was discovered in 1775 by Johann Elert Bode. M 53 is easy to spot at 1° northeast of α Comae Berenices. Its 100,000 stars cover a field with up to 13 arcminutes of diameter, they appear as a 7.6m bright spot in a beautiful star field.
You need at least a medium sized telescope to clearly see the dust bands which gave M 64 its nickname Black-Eye-Galaxy, but some observers claim to have spotted them in giant binoculars. However, in most binoculars the brightest galaxy of this constellation appears only as a nebulous star with 9.2m. It is one of the twelve brightest spiral galaxies and has a diameter of at least 65,000 light-years. Together with M 94 in Canes Venaticorum it is part of a 24 million light-years distant galaxy group.
Only with averted vision NGC 4565 can be recognized as a thin line in a 10 × 50 binocular. The central bulge can be seen at 20x magnification – just out of reach for common binoculars. The 9.6m bright galaxy is one of the brightest members of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. It is located 13° north of the center of the Virgo Cluster, and is 46 million light-years from our own Milky Way. NGC 4565 is considered one of the most beautiful edge-on galaxies and is 5.4 times as luminous as our own galaxy.
Melotte 111 is also known as the Coma Star Cluster and corresponds to the main part of Berenice‘s Hair. In a 5° area you will find 80 stars of fifth and sixth magnitude, although not all belong to Mel 111. At least 38 members of the cluster are brighter than 9.3m, the other field stars contribute to the impressive sight. The 260 light-years distant star cluster has a diameter of about 40 light-years, just like the much more impressive Pleiades in 360 light-years distance. It is one of the nearest star clusters, only the Hyades (150 light-years) and the stars of the Big Dipper (Collinder 285, 70 light-years) are closer.
Melotte 111 is 400 to 500 million years old, so that it only contains a few bright and massive stars. Since it only consists of a few suns, its mass is low, and it already shows clear signs of disintegration. Many lower mass stars have already left it and are scattered all over the galaxy.