The Coma Berenices Star Cluster, Melotte 111

Open Cluster Melotte 111 in Coma Berenices

Right Ascension 12 : 25: (h:m)
Declination +26 : (deg:m)
Distance 0.288 (kly)
Visual Brightness 1.8 (mag)
Apparent Dimension 275 (arc min)

Cataloged by Ptolemy about 138 AD.

This large and conspicuous cluster was first cataloged by Ptolemy; it is scattered over an area of about 4.5 degrees diameter. Although conspicuous, it was neither included in Messier's nor in the NGC catalog, because its nature as a true, physical cluster was proven only in 1938 by R.J. Trumpler who identified 37 stars as true cluster members. Prior to this, P.J. Melotte had cataloged it in his 1915 catalog as No. 111.

The Coma star cluster is currently neither approaching nor receding from us, i.e. it moves tangentially to us with a velocity directed to position angle PA=218 deg, visible as a proper motion of 0.02 arc seconds per year. So member stars are easily identified by having this proper motion and no Doppler shift in their spectra. Its distance has recently been refined by data of ESA's astrometric satellite Hipparcos, and is now estimated at 288 light years (previous estimate was 260). This makes it one of the nearest open star clusters, only the Ursa Major Cluster and the Hyades are even closer.

The Sky Catalog 2000 gives an age of 400 million years, and the brightest star as of apparent magnitude 4.35, the hottest spectral type of A0.

It is a bit surprising that while the cluster contains stars down to magnitude 10.5, no fainter member stars have been found so far. Perhaps this is due to the cluster's low total mass which couldn't prevent them from escaping into the surrounding space long ago.

Our image was obtained by amateur Jack Schmidling. More images from Jack Schmidling

In John Caldwell's observing list.

  • More images of the Coma Star Cluster, Mel 111

  • The Coma Star Cluster as photographed by Donald R. Pettit from the International Space Station (ISS) in February 2003. [Nasa caption]

  • Jean-Claude Mermilliod's WEBDA cluster page for Mel 111, the Coma Star Cluster
  • SIMBAD Data of the Coma Star Cluster, Mel 111
  • Publications on the Coma Star Cluster, Mel 111 (NASA ADS)
  • Observing Reports for the Coma Star Cluster - Mel 111 (IAAC Netastrocatalog)

    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg

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    Last Modification: November 9, 2005