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NASA Commemorates Ancient Egyptian Queen with Image of ‘Sequined’ Galaxy

NASA Commemorates Ancient Egyptian Queen with Image of ‘Sequined’ Galaxy

Tuesday, 14 January, 2020 - 08:15
NGC 4455. (Hubble & NASA)
Cairo - Hazem Bader

Dazzling sequins are usually used in garments embroidery. But this time, sequin-like bodies have been observed at 45 million light years forming a spiral galaxy ornamenting a northern constellation named Berenice's Hair in honor of Queen Berenice II of Egypt (267-266 BC).

An image of the Coma Berenices (NGC 4455) galaxy was taken by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, and shared on the agency's website in December to remind people of the constellation and the galaxy it embraces.

In a caption accompanying the image, NASA wrote: "It's the only modern constellation to be named in honor of a real person from history: Queen Berenice II of Egypt."

She was born in Egypt, in 280 BC, married King Ptolemy III, and ruled the country on behalf of her husband during a war he led against Antiochus III the Great.

Reportedly, the form of the galaxy which looks like sequins decorating the constellation is somehow related to the myth of Queen Berenice who was known for the beauty of her hair. This beauty didn't prevent her from sacrificing a lock to Goddess Aphrodite as an offering to ensure her husband's safe return from battle. The lock had apparently been stolen and placed among the stars, says the myth published on NASA's website.

Dr. Mohammed Ghareeb, professor of Greek and Romanian history at the Zagazig University, told Asharq Al-Awsat: "Astronomer and Mathematician Aristarchus of Samos had documented this myth by naming the constellation after the queen. Then, a poem by Callimachus celebrated the name, which was later mocked in another poem by the Alexander Pope (1688-1744), an English poet who was known for his satirical and discursive poetry."

According to Ghareeb, Arabs have called the constellation "Al-Halaba", however, its scientific name has remained Berenice's Hair, the one given by Samos.

The sequin-like galaxy is among the most prominent features of the northern constellation, which was discovered by the British Astronomer William Herschel in April, 1785, and added by Astronomer John Louis Emil Dreyer to the Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars in 1888. The catalogue includes 7,840 celestial bodies in the northern hemisphere known as NGCs.

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