What Is Messier Catalog?


The Messier catalog

You may have heard of the Messier Catalog, but do you know what it is?

When I was young, my father would take me outside each clear night to show me the stars. The best view was our backyard, and that’s where we usually stood. Dad pointed out different clusters in the sky and told stories of how they came to be there. 

It wasn’t just about the stars, though; he would point out a bright light in one part of the sky, then another, and tell me about them too – galaxies!

He had an old book with him called “The Messier Catalog,” which noted all sorts of deep-sky objects you could see from Earth if you looked up at just the right time.

It even broke down what type three types:

  • Globular clusters
  • Open clusters
  • Diffuse nebulae

What is the Messier catalog?

The Messier Catalog is a list of deep-sky objects compiled by French astronomer Charles Messier. It contains 110 nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies visible from Earth with a small telescope. Messier created this catalog to help astronomers find these celestial objects more quickly, so they would not confuse them with comets.

Messier has published his first catalog in 1774 and contained a total of 45 items. It has gone through different versions over the years, with 103 objects as early as 1781! 

In 1910, it exploded to contain listings for 1025 celestial bodies! 

Ten years later, that number doubled again at 2107 entries into this ever-growing list – all thanks to Charles, who discovered more than half (17) out these objects themselves.

Sombrero galaxy

What is listed in the Messier catalog?

The Messier catalog is a list of the brightest and most interesting astronomical objects in space.

Some notable entries are:

  • globular clusters,
  • open star clusters,
  • planetary nebulae,
  • supernovas-remnants from massive stars that died due to gravitational
  • collapse or nuclear fusion has gone wrong
  • pulsars with rapidly spinning neutron cores called magnetars (the only type of radio wave emitting object not emanating from Earth),
  • galaxies like our Milky Way which astronomers believe contain billions upon trillions of galactic systems including other planets similar to ours orbiting their suns just as we orbit ours.
  • There are also black holes. Enormous dark regions where the matter has been crushed down into an infinitely small point. these have such powerful gravity they can suck up nearby asteroids without much effort! Most
Black hole is also Messier object

How many Messier objects are there?

Astronomy is a vast and complex science, but it can be daunting for newcomers. The New General Catalogue has millions of deep-sky objects, which are often used as an entry point when exploring more astronomy outside your neighborhood in space. However, Messier Objects will always remain popular with amateurs because they’re so easy to find!

The New General Catalogue is the definitive catalog that amateur astronomers turn to first when looking up astronomical data on their favorite subjects. There are even 110 Messier Objects included among its depths sky objects – this makes it perfect for beginners who want something easier than hunting down obscure stars or galaxies by themselves (and then risking getting lost)!

What is the brightest Messier object?

This celestial wonder is often the first object novice stargazers see with their naked eye or binoculars. It’s a giant cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born, making it an observed field day for astronomers in high-powered telescopes like Hubble.

The Orion Nebula (Messier 42) is the brightest emission nebulae visible from mid-northern latitudes.

Backyard photo of the Orion Nebula taken by By BryanGoff – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62413371
Orion nebula is Messier 42 object

What Telescope did Messier use?

Charles Messier is an astronomer who had the unique ability to see things that others could not. His father sparked his interest in astronomy. He became fascinated with all of the constellations present in the night sky; this led him on a journey where he would eventually create one himself!

The experience of seeing these stars scattered about up above intrigued Charles from a young age so much. 

For example, when it came time for school, instead of focusing solely on literature or mathematics as most children did back then (or now), Charlie spent more than half their days studying star charts and reading books about them.

Eventually becoming obsessed with discovering new worlds among those shining points in space, Mr. Messier soon found what little spare money they had earned and bought a 100 mm (four-inch) refracting telescope from Hôtel de Cluny.

lagoon nebula is messier object number 8

What Are Deep Sky Objects?

A nebula is a cloud of gas and dust in space. Nebulae come in three types: bright, dark, or planetary.

Bright nebulae emit their own light with the help of stars; these are commonly called emission nebulae because they give off “emissions.”

Dark nebulas have also been given this name for obvious reasons–they don’t produce their light but can be seen due to reflected starlight that gets scattered by interstellar materials like dust particles (think about how you see your reflection when you shine a flashlight on it).

Lastly, there are planetary nebulas which were named after the hypothesis at first appeared, where some believed them to look similar to planets as viewed through telescopes!

deep sky objects
deep sky objects

What Are Globular Clusters?

If you have never seen a globular cluster, then there is no better time than now to start. Globular clusters are groups of between a few thousand and about one million stars that form above and below the central disc of our galaxy when viewed from Earth. One example would be M13 in Hercules, which can only be visible with telescopes because it’s so far away but still has enough light for us to see its brightness.

Globular Clusters are groups of between billon-million stars that form around the galactic center as well as on both sides near Earth’s orbit (known collectively as Halos). They actually contain more bright blue giants than red dwarfs; this illustrates how they differ significantly from other types of galaxies.

Blue giant compared too Algol B and the sun

Open Clusters

Open clusters are like the toddler of space. They have a range in ages, some as old or older than our Sun, and they can be found on all sides of Earth’s galaxy.

Some open cluster babies still cling to each other because their interstellar matter is so close together. Still, most don’t need that kind of support anymore and wander freely throughout the galaxies’ disk-shaped plane by themselves with diameters less than 30 light-years long (the size if you were holding it up for someone else).

Eagle nebula pillars

Open clusters are one way astronomers study how stars form out there in deep outer space! Open clusters come from nebulae made from very thin gas, which cools into little clumps called protostars – these then turn into big fat red giants.

From the unaided eye, one can see several open clusters in space. The most famous of these are the Pleiades that appears as a group of six stars, and it can be seen by those with good vision or even more than six.


Because some people have excellent eyesight for spotting small details (Pleiadians?), this cluster is arranged like a bit of a dipping spoon, and you will find them within the Taurus constellation-the bull.

A pair of binoculars would help greatly if not already equipped but get ready for an outta this world experience!

What Is Messier Catalog? 1
Using data from the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, an international team of astronomers has discovered 96 new open clusters hidden by the dust in the Milky Way. Thirty of these clusters are shown in this mosaic. These tiny and faint objects were invisible to previous surveys, but they could not escape the sensitive infrared detectors of the world’s largest survey telescope, which can peer through the dust. This is the first time so many faint and small clusters have been found at once. The images are made using infrared light in the following bands: J (shown in blue), H (shown in green), and Ks (shown in red).

Stellar Associations

The brilliance of the stars in an association dazzles onlookers with their dazzling light. Groups such as Orion’s stellar associations are some of the densest concentrations of hot, bright O and B type star systems that exist within a region spanning 100-500 light-years across space.

Members typically number 5 to 50 young blue-white supergiant stars scattered over this vast area like confetti thrown into the open air on New Year’s Eve night.

Orion_Head_to_Toe- By Rogelio Bernal Andreo – http://deepskycolors.com/astro/JPEG/RBA_Orion_HeadToToes.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20793252

The constellation is among the most spectacular examples because it contains almost all members from this dense grouping which takes up about one-third of our sky when seen low near sunset or high at midnight during December.

Due to northward migration through winter months until March, then back southwards toward summer solstice before September ends its yearly cycle.

Imagine you’re planting a garden. You’ve sown the seeds and watered them, but they still haven’t sprouted yet. But if you look closely at your plot of land, now that it’s been cleared for construction and all the weeds have been removed, there are holes in places where new plants will grow soon enough–new stars!

Stellar Associations – By Meli thev – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=88059423

In regions rich with gas and dust required to form new stars like open clusters ́sits an association just as any other cluster would do.

 However, this is not ordinary because associations usually reside in areas occupied by dusty interstellar clouds too thick to allow clear views into their depths which can make observers see nothing but individual young stars scattered around.

What is Nebulae or What Are Nebulae?

NGC 604 portion of Triangulum Galaxy

Nebulae are huge and hazy clouds of gas, dust, and other nebulized emissions that can be seen as patches in the sky.

Some nebulae hold future stars within them–bright young pearls illuminating their dusty surroundings with a fiery breath. The Orion Nebula is one such exemplar; M42 shines brightly near its center, where new star births have been taking place for some time now.

Nebulas were first discovered by Pierre Mechain on June 15th, 1745, while observing Jupiter’s comet through his telescope!

carina nebula
Carina nebula

What Is Planetary Nebulae?

A PLANETARY NEBULA is the remains of a star that has reached its end. After about ten billion years, hydrogen — which powered the bright and risen Sun for so many billions of years — will have run out. As if by some internal clockwork mechanism set into motion long ago.

Cat’s Eye Nebula image of three images taken at different wavelengths

The bloated star collapses inward on itself like an airless balloon with too much helium in it: inflated to a bursting point but collapsing down to nothingness from within at ever.

Increasing speed until eventually there’s no more left than a thin shell around what was once such brightness and heat that now all we see are shadows against the everlasting night. Because this dying light can’t pierce through time or space anymore, only illuminate our own insignificance up here amid infinity.

Planetary Nebulae Temperature

NGC 6326, a planetary nebula with glowing wisps of outpouring gas that are lit up by a binary – Image By ESA/Hubble, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10758494

The planetary nebula phase of stellar evolution is relatively short-lived. It lasts just a few tens of thousands of years, but during that time, the star will emit enough ultraviolet radiation to cause its ejected outer layers to glow brightly – a celestial spectacle in which we show up as mere blips on radar screens and spectrographs.

As the star’s outer layers drift away, some of it may form a rotating disk around what remains. The remaining core is now very hot and dense – hotter than 100,000°C!

The planetary nebula phase of stellar evolution lasts only about 10,000 years or so (relatively quick). During this brief period, it’s common for stars with these masses (~1 solar) to pump out all sorts of workaday atomic elements like helium gas (*H), nitrogen gas**N*2*, carbon + oxygen **C+O*2*, magnesium *Mg++Si+++Cl*.

What Are SuperNova Remanants?

Supernova remnants in the Large Magellanic Cloud
Supernova remnants in the Large Magellanic Cloud

SUPERNOVA REMNANTS are the remains of a giant star that has destroyed itself in a massive explosion. One particular type of Super Nova produces a fuzzy patch. This is where a giant star between 5 to 30 times the mass of our Sun reaches the end of its existence. 

 The star becomes very unstable until it eventually explodes and completely destroys itself. The supernova remnant known as the Crab Nebula, in Taurus, is the first in Messier’s list and is therefore designated as M1.


I love how galaxies are always changing and evolving, even though they seem so permanent as we look up at the sky.

I really enjoy looking into space because it’s like I can watch time pass by. Watching stars be born then eventually die out is fascinating to me, and this process repeats itself over and over again for all eternity!

The Milky Way galaxy is so big that most of the stars are too faint to be seen, even if you’re looking right at them! You might wonder how objects composed of up to a trillion or more individual stars could be so difficult to observe.

Of course, the answer is distance, just like with any other object in space- they all seem small and distant when we can’t see what’s next door, but it looks really close on Earth. Even advanced observers regard observing galaxies as a challenge because their light appears dimmer than those closer by due mostly for one reason: distance (like pretty much everything else).

messier object galaxy
Messier object galaxy -By Groschenwiki – Own work. Modified from previously uploaded image File:Size (left) and distance (right) of galaxies put to scale.JPG, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39688237

sunflower Galaxy

When I think of the galaxies, one that always stands out to me is the sunflower Galaxy. It has been said by many experts in astronomy and astrophysics alike for its high-resolution photographs because it’s considered a “local group galaxy.”

The best time to observe this constellation from northern latitudes are during March-May; however, even though Canes Venatici can be quite faint at times (M63), when you spot them, they will stand as not difficult on my list because these two space constellations have such close proximity with each other which makes finding M63 easy enough especially using the Big Dipper or Little Dipper!

The Sunflower Galaxy has become an icon amongst astronomers worldwide due to its highly brilliant coloring, intricate patterns, and a large number of stars that make up its structure.

It was first discovered by astronomer Halton Arp who named this particular galaxy after discovering similarities between nebulae found along the edge of spiral arms near sunflowers on Earth (thus the name).

Sunflower_galaxy – By Pablo Carlos Budassi – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94398997

List Of Messier Objects

Startling like the stars in a black, moonless night sky are more than two thousand celestial objects that have been cataloged by Charles Messier and his team. With this astonishing scope of heavenly wonders to explore, it is no wonder why astronomy has fascinated humans for centuries!

You can download Ultimate List of Messier Objects in pdf from this link

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