When French astronomer Charles Messier began compiling a list of astronomical objects, more than 250 years ago, his initial goal was simply to differentiate night-sky objects that moved from those that didn’t. What Messier and other astronomers really wanted to find were comets.
But his list of some of the brightest objects in the night sky would eventually include dozens of galaxies, nebulae and star clusters — things Messier had little conception of at the time. Today, amateur astronomers the world over still seek out the 110 Messier objects. For a real challenge, some attempt to find as many objects as possible in one night with a so-called Messier Marathon.
To celebrate the September 12 anniversary of when Charles Messier first began his catalog in 1758, we’ve compiled a Mini Messier Marathon for you!
The nebula that started it all, Messier 1 (M1), is a supernova remnant in the constellation Taurus. Messier wasn’t the first to record the object though, M1 likely corresponds to a supernova that Chinese astronomers noted in 1054 A.D.
The third-largest of the Local Group of galaxies that includes the Milky Way, the Triangulum galaxy sits some 2.7 million light-years from Earth. Messier 33 (M33) is a small spiral galaxy that’s just visible with the naked eye.
M45, also called the Seven Sisters, is an open star cluster found in the constellation Taurus. It’s made mostly of hot, blue stars, and is one of the closest star clusters to Earth.
The Dumbbell Nebula (M27) was the first planetary nebula to be discovered, by Messier in 1764. Like other planetary nebulae, this apple core-shaped nebula formed from a dying star as it ejected its outer layers.
Pegasus Globular Cluster
M15 is a dense globular cluster containing more than 100,000 stars packed tightly together. It’s thought to have undergone what’s known as “core collapse,” when the central stars are drawn even closer to one another.
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Clear skies! 🔭