In 1758, 28-year old French astronomer Charles Messier observed and tracked a marvelous sight. Halley’s Comet had returned as predicted, which proved that these fuzzy-tailed visitors orbited the sun like the planets. Suddenly comet hunting was a major part of astronomy, and the discovery of a new comet could make you a minor celebrity in Europe.
Mr. Messier observed the skies with extreme vigilance, hoping to discover new comets. Later nicknamed the “Ferret of Comets”, he discovered13 comets on his own and helped to discover six others.
Yet Mr. Messier is known today more for his list of deep space objects than for discovering comets.
In his search for these extremely faint objects, Mr. Messier came across areas of the sky that looked like comets but didn’t move with respect to the stars. Mr. Messier called these comet masqueraders, “embarrassing objects”.
So Mr. Messier, not wanting to be embarrassed anymore, compiled a list of comet like objects to include on star charts, much like a sea captain might mark reefs on an ocean map. Eventually, he included 103 objects in his catalog. Seven more were added after his death.
These 110 Messier Objects represent some of the most fascinating phenomena in and out of our galaxy.
The list includes:
55 star clusters
a double star
Some Messier ( or M ) objects can be seen with the naked eye. The cluster of stars called the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, are designated as M45. The Orion nebula, which can be found below Orion’s belt is M42 and M43. About 80 M objects can be found with a good pair of binoculars.
BN- bright nebula PN- planetary nebula
OP- open cluster GC- globular cluster
GX- galaxy **- stars
Observed / M# / Type / Constellation
[ ] 1 BN Tau Crab Neb.; supernova remnant
[ ] 2 GC Aqu 20 cm scope needed to resolve
[ ] 3 GC CVn contains many variables
[ ] 4 GC Sco bright globular near Antares
[x] 5 GC Ser one of the finest globulars
[ ] 6 OC Sco best at low magnification
[ ] 7 OC Sco excellent in binoculars
[ ] 8 BN Sag Lagoon Neb. w/cl. NGC 6530
[ ] 9 GC Oph smallest of Oph. globulars
[ ] 10 GC Oph rich cl.; Ml 2 3.40 away
[ ] 11 OC Scu superb open cluster
[ ] 12 GC Oph loose globular
[ ] 13 GC Her spectacular globular cl.
[ ] 14 GC Oph 20 cm scope needed to resolve
[ ] 15 GC Peg rich, compact globular
[ ] 16 OC Ser Star-Queen Neb. w/ open cl.
[ ] 17 BN Sag Swan or Omega Nebula
[ ] 18 OC Sag sparse cluster
[ ] 19 GC Oph oblate globular
[ ] 20 BN Sag Trifid Nebula
[ ] 21 OC Sag
[ ] 22 GC Sag low altitude dims beauty
[ ] 23 OC Sag bright, loose cluster
[ ] 24 *C Sag Milky Way patch; binoc. obj.
[ ] 25 OC Sag bright but sparse cluster
[ ] 26 OC Scu bright, coarse cluster
[ ] 27 PN Vul Dumbbell Nebula
[ ] 28 GC Sag compact globular near M22
[ ] 29 OC Cyg small, poor open cl.
[ ] 30 GC Cap noticeable elliptical shape
[ ] 31 GX And Andromeda Galaxy
[ ] 32 GX And companion gal. to M31
[ ] 33 GX Tri large, diffuse spiral
[ ] 34 OC Per best at very low mag.
[ ] 35 OC Gem superb open cluster
[ ] 36 OC Aur best at low magnification
[ ] 37 OC Aur finest of 3 Aur. clusters
[ ] 38 OC Aur large, scattered group
[ ] 39 OC Cyg very sparse cluster
[ ] 40 *2 UMj two stars; sep. 50'
[ ] 41 OC CMj
[x] 42 BN Ori Orion Nebula
[x] 43 BN Ori detached part of Orion Neb
[ ] 44 OC Cnc Beehive Cluster
[x] 45 OC Tau Pleiades
[ ] 46 OC Pup rich cl.; contains PN
[ ] 47 OC Pup coarse cl.; 1.50W. of M46
[ ] 48 OC Hyd "lost" Messier object
[ ] 49 GX Vir very bright elliptical
[ ] 50 OC Mon between Sirius and Procyon
[ ] 51 GX CVn Whirlpool Galaxy
[ ] 52 OC Cas young, rich cluster
[ ] 53 GC Com 15 cm scope needed to resolve
[ ] 54 GC Sag not easily resolved
[ ] 55 GC Sag bright, loose globular
[ ] 56 GC Lyr
[x] 57 PN Lyr Ring Nebula
[ ] 58 GX Vir bright barred spiral
[ ] 59 GX Vir bright elliptical near M58
[ ] 60 GX Vir bright elliptical near M59
[ ] 61 GX Vir face-on barred spiral
[ ] 62 GC Oph unsymmetrical; in rich field
[ ] 63 GX CVn Sunflower Galaxy
[ ] 64 GX Com Black Eye Galaxy
[ ] 65 GX Leo bright elongated spiral
[ ] 66 GX Leo M65 in same field
[ ] 67 OC Cnc "ancient" star cluster
[ ] 68 GC Hyd 15 cm scope needed to resolve
[ ] 69 GC Sag small, poor globular
[ ] 70 GC Sag small globular; 2'E. of M69
[ ] 71 GC Sgt loose globular cl.
[ ] 72 GC Aqu near NGC 7009 (Saturn Neb.)
[ ] 73 ** Aqu group of 4 stars only
[ ] 74 GX Psc faint, elusive spiral
[ ] 75 GC Sag small, remote globular
[ ] 76 PN Per Little Dumbbell Neb.
[ ] 77 GX Cet Seyfert gal.; star-like nuc.
[ ] 78 BN Ori featureless reflection neb.
[ ] 79 GC Lep 20 cm scope needed to resolve
[ ] 80 GC Sco very compressed globular
[ ] 81 GX UMj very bright spiral
[ ] 82 GX UMj the "exploding" galaxy
[ ] 83 GX Hyd very faint and diffuse
[ ] 84 GX Vir bright elliptical
[ ] 85 GX Com bright elliptical shape
[ ] 86 GX Vir M84 in same field
[ ] 87 GX Vir nearly spherical galaxy
[ ] 88 GX Com bright multiple-arm spiral
[ ] 89 GX Vir resembles M87; smaller
[ ] 90 GX Vir bright spiral; near M89
[ ] 91 GX Com not the same as M58
[ ] 92 GC Her NE. of M13; bright
[ ] 93 OC Pup smaller, brighter than M46
[ ] 94 GX CVn very bright and comet-like
[ ] 95 GX Leo bright barred spiral
[ ] 96 GX Leo M95 in same field
[ ] 97 PN UMj Owl Nebula
[ ] 98 GX Com nearly edge-on spiral
[ ] 99 GX Com nearly face-on spiral
[ ] 100 GX Com face-on spiral; star-like nuc.
[ ] 101 GX UMj large, faint, face-on spiral
[ ] 102 GX Dra small, edge-on galaxy
[ ] 103 OC Cas NGC clusters nearby
[ ] 104 GX Vir Sombrero Galaxy
[ ] 105 GC Leo very near M95 and M96
[ ] 106 GX CVn large, bright spiral
[ ] 107 GC Oph small, faint globular
[ ] 108 GX UMj nearly edge-on; near M97
[ ] 109 GX UMj barred spiral; nearby UMa
[ ] 110 GX And companion gal. to M31
M5 and M57 observed at BGSU Observatory through a 1m refracting telescope on October 16, 2011 around 9:00pm with Ryan McHugh. Also observed Jupiter with 3 Galilean moons.
M45 and M42 / M43 observed with Canon PowerShot A3100 camera in parking lot of BG Village Apartments on January 28, 2012 at 9:04pm.
M42 observed more closely at BGSU Observatory through a 1m refracting telescope on March 16, 2012 around 9:00pm. Trapezium and green clouds clearly visible. Also observed Jupiter with 3 Galilean moons, Mars, and gibbous Venus. Date was near peak of Jupiter/Venus conjunction.