Constellations: Corona Borealis and Bootes

With the exception of Alphecca (Gemma), Corona Borealis, the northern Crown, is a faint constellation of the Northern Hemisphere, and is the counterpart to Corona Australis – The Southern Crown – in the Southern Hemisphere.  Alphecca represents the central jewel of the crown, hence its English name, Gemma. The Principal star is:  Alfecca (Gemma) Alpha Coronae Borealis, magnitude 2.2.

Boötes, the Herdsman, is one of the constelaltions most widely recognised by ancient cultures. It depicts a herdsman driving a bear (Ursa Major – The Great Bear) around the sky. The proper name of the constellation’s brightest star, Arcturus, roughly means ‘Bearkeeper’ in Greek. He is often said to be holding the lead of the hunting dogs Canes Venatici. Principal stars are:  Arcturus (Alpha Boötis), magnitude -0.04 an orange giant, and the 4th brightest star in the entire sky;  Izar – Loincloth (Epsilon Boötis), magnitude 2.7 an orange giant, with a 5th magnitude blue companion – a really spectacular double star;  Haris (Gamma Boötis – also known as Seginus), magnitude 3.0;   Nekkar , a corruption of the Arabic for Ox-Driver, (Beta Boötis) a yellow giant, magnitude 3.5.   Nu Boötis , is an easy double with binoculars, both components are magnitude 5.0.

The constellation is associated with the Quadrantid meteor shower:  Jan 3-4th each year. The zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) is usually around 100, the actual number seen is usually less than this. It may seem odd not to name a meteor shower with a radiant in Boötes the Boötids. The name comes from an obsolete constellation in what is now the northern part of Boötes which was once known as Quadrans Muralis – The Mural Quadrant.

Coma Berenices is a faint Northern constellation near Leo. Indeed, until 1551, the constellation was deemed part of Leo. The constellation boasts many bright galaxies, which, strictly, belong to the Virgo cluster of galaxies. M64 is a famous spiral galaxy known as the ‘Black Eye’ galaxy because of the dark cloud which obscure its nucleus. Principal stars are:  Diadem Alpha Comae Berenices, magnitude 4.3;   Beta Comae Berenices, magnitude 4.3.