Queen Berenices flowing locks now form the constellation Coma Berenices (KO-muh Bear-en-EYE-ceez), well-placed in the southeastern sky in late March and April. Urania’s Mirror / Sidney Hall
There are 88 constellations. All are named for mythological characters, animals and even machines. Except one — Coma Berenices. It’s the only constellation named for a real person. The name means “Berenice’s Hair” and refers to the locks of Queen Berenice II of Egypt. She lived in Cyrene near the modern-day city of Shahhat, Libya from 266-221 B.C.
Bust of Berenice II of Egypt.
When her husband, Ptolemy III Euergetes, went off to war in Asia, the queen made a vow to cut off her hair and offer it up to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty and passion, should he return safely. A year later the king arrived home, Berenice got a haircut and the tresses were placed in a temple associated with the goddess. Only the next day, the hair went missing.
The whodunit tale is unrecorded, but Conon of Samos, an astronomer and mathematician living in Alexandria, offered up an ingenious explanation to the king — Berenice’s hair had ascended to the sky as a nebulous mass of stars behind ...