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NASA Hubble Features Constellation Named After Egyptian Queen Berenice II

The NASA Hubble space telescope website has featured a star constellation named after Queen Berenice II of Egypt.

space constellations

This week’s NASA Hubble image shows the stunning Coma Berenices ('Berenice’s hair') star constellation, named after Queen Berenice II of Egypt. This is the only modern constellation to be named after a real historical figure, and the reference to her hair specifically has a fantastical story behind it.

Queen Berenice II ruled the ancient Greek city of Cyrene, which is part of what is now Libya. She eventually became queen of Ptolemaic Egypt after she got married to her cousin Ptolemy III Euergetes. When her husband decided to go to Syria to avenge the murder of his sister (the widow of Antiochus XI ), Queen Berenice decided to offer a lock of her hair as a sacrifice in exchange for his safe return from battle. When her wish came true, the hair miraculously disappeared. The court astronomer at the time said that the lock of hair had been transported to the heavens and formed a new constellation, which is how it earned its name.

The Coma Berenices constellation is part of a galaxy which is around 45 million light-years away. The image was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.

What are your favourite mythological stories? Let us know in the comments below.

(***Photo credits: spacetelescope.org)


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