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You are, of course, welcome to consult and make use of my pages at will. However, if you have found them useful in any appreciable way, please consider sending a small disbursement (even something as small as 1 Euro/Pound/Dollar/etc. would be received with appreciation).

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Messier List


Introduction

The list was first published by the comet-hunter Charles Messier in 1771. He listed 103 objects, objects which were definitely not comets, with the intention of easily eliminating these objects from possible comet sightings. Nowadays the list comprises 110 objects.

Messier can claim to have discovered 42 of the objects himself, and 22 were discovered by his colleague Pierre Mechain.

All Messier Objects also have NGC numbers. This relates to the New General Catalog, a larger catalog of objects.

Of the 110 objects in the Messier Catalog,

  • 40 are galaxies
  • 29 globular clusters
  • 27 open clusters
  • 6 diffuse nebulae
  • 4 planetary nebulae
  • 1 supernova remnant
  • 3 "other" objects: star cloud M24, double star M40, and the group or asterism of 4 stars, M73

The brightest objects are, in order

  • Pleiades (M45)
  • Andromeda "Nebula" (M31)
  • Praesepe (M44)
  • Orion Nebula (M42)
  • M7 in Scorpius

The faintest Messier Objects are of 10th magnitude:

  • M108 of visual mag 10.0
  • M76 and M98 of visual mag 10.1
  • M91 of mag 10.2.

The southernmost object is open cluster M7 in Scorpius at declination -34:49.

M1 Crab Nebula

M1:Crab Nebula
Supernova Remnant

The Crab Nebula is the remnant of the most famous supernova of all, which was observed by Chinese and Japanese astronomers from 4th July 1054 to 17th April 1056 (but not seemingly in the West). The envelope is expanding at 1,000 km per second, and in the heart of the nebula is a rapidly spinning pulsar; a neutron star 20 km across. Its mass is equal to 1 to 1.5 solar masses and it spins 33 times a second. This also produces X-rays, by synchrotron emission from energetic electrons in the pulsarís intense magnetic field (in fact the Crab is emitting about 100 times more energy in X-rays than at visible light). It is also the second brightest source of gamma rays.

The pulsar (remnant of the original star) was detected in 1968 and was eventually found to be a pulsar in all electromagnetic radiation from radio to gamma rays.

M2

Globular Cluster

In Aquarius close to the Celestial Equator. magnitude 6.0

M3

Globular Cluster

In Canes Venatici, halfway between Arcturus and Cor Caroli. Along with M5 and M13, it is one of the three brightest globulars in the Northern Hemisphere.

M4

Globular Cluster

Lies close to Antares. It is less condensed than most globulars so it is easier to resolve into stars.

M5

Globular Cluster

Lies in Serpens Caput. Highly recommended for viewers from Britain.

M6, Butterfly Cluster

M6:Galactic Cluster

Galactic Cluster
Lies between the Teapot and the tail of Scorpius. Needs a high power to see its butterfly shape.

M7

Galactic Cluster

Lies close to M6

M8 Lagoon Nebula

HII Region

M8:Lagoon Nebula Lies close to the ecliptic, north of the Teapot. Gets its name because it has a dark nebula NGC 6530 crossing it.

M9

Globular Cluster

In Ophiuchus

M10

Globular Cluster

In Ophiuchus

M11 Wild Duck Cluster

Galactic Cluster

M11:Wild Duck Cluster Lies in the Scutum Star Cloud, below Altair. Named by Admiral Smyth becaiuse he thought it looked like the V-shape of a skein of flying ducks.

M12

Globular Cluster

In Ophiuchus

M13

M13:Globular Cluster in Hercules
Globular Cluster

In Hercules; the only Globular visible with the naked eye from Britain (under very exceptional conditions) although even then it appears not to have been recorded until spotted by Halley.. Maybe up to a million stars packed into a sphere only a few tens (maybe up to 100) of light-years.

M14

Globular Cluster

In Ophiuchus

M15

Globular Cluster

In Pegasus. Believed to contain a supermassive black hole. Central stars are circling around something with extreme speed. M15 is a source of intense X-rays. It is also very bright considering its distance, of 40,000 light years.

M16, Eagle Nebula

M16:Eagle Nebula in Serpens M16:Eagle Nebula in Serpens

In Serpens Cauda.

The second image is a part of the famous image from the Hubble Space Telescope.

M17, Omega Nebula, Swan Nebula, Horseshoe Nebula, Checkmark Nebula

HII Region

M17:Omega Nebula Received its (first in above list) name because of similarity to the Greek letter. It is in Sagittarius.

M19

Globular Cluster

In Ophiuchus

M20 Triffid Nebula

Triffid Nebula

HII Region
Close to the ecliptic, north of the Teapot. Seems to be attached to the same nebulosity as M8.

M22

Globular Cluster, Great Sagittarius Cluster

Lies close to the ecliptic, above the Teapot in Sagittarius. Was actually seen in 1665 by Abraham Ihle, the first recorded sighting of what we now know to be Globular Clusters. One of the nearer globulars and huge, ranked third behind Omega Centauri and 47 Tucanae.

M23

Galactic Cluster

Lies in Sagittarius.

M24

Star Cloud

Lies in Sagittarius. This is just a very bright portion of the sky and is not actually a deep-sky object (although there is a cluster in the center which was too faint for Messier to spot.

M25

Galactic Cluster

Lies in Sagittarius.

M26

Galactic Cluster

Lies in Scutum, close to M11.

M27 Dumbbell Nebula

M27, Dumbbell Nebula

Planetary Nebula
Lies in Vulpecula, above Altair. Around 500-900 light years away, it is the brightest and biggest of planetary nebulas, with a magnitude of 7.3.

M29

Galactic Cluster

Within the Northern Cross, close to the intersection. Badly obscured by dust.

M30

Globular Cluster

In Capricorn

M31 Andromeda Galaxy

Andromed Galaxy
Spiral Galaxy, Type Sb
M31 is about one and a half times as large as the Milky Way. It lies about 2.4 million light years away, within the Local Group of which the Milky Way is also a member. It has magnitude 3.5 and is generally believed to be the farthest object visible with the naked eye. It has four satellite galaxies, amongst them M32 and M110. It has been known of since very early on - the first telescopic obsevation recorded was by Simon Marius in 1612. In 1845 it was observed by Parsons who seemed to be have considered the possibility that it was composed of individual stars. Spectroscopic measurements in the Nineteenth Century by Huggins produced a spectrum unlike those of 'ordinary' nebulas. For star map showing location of M31 go here . It requires quite a high-power device for its spiral nature to be detected - binoculars will aid detection but it will still only look 'nebulous'.

M32

M32
Elliptical Galaxy, Type E2

Companion to M31 (just above and to the left of it). Least massive object in Messier's list. Its diameter is around 8000 light years.

M33, Pinwheel Galaxy

M33:Pinwheel Galaxy

Spiral galaxy, Type Sc

Member of the Local Group at a distance of 2.7 light years. It is found the other side of the Andromeda constellation than the Andromeda Galaxy M31 itself. It is actually in Triangulum. It is small in comparison with the Milky Way - about 6% as massive as the Mily Way. It has a diameter of about 60,000 light years.

M34

Galactic Cluster

In Perseus, between Algol and γ Andromodae.

M35

Galactic Cluster

In Gemini, west of Castor and Pollux. NGC 2158 is close by.

M36

Galactic Cluster

In Auriga

M37

Galactic Cluster

In Auriga

M38

Galactic Cluster

In Auriga. Said to represnrt the Greek letter π when viewed in a small terlescope.

M39

Galactic Cluster

Lies about 10° north of Deneb.

M40

A pair of stars

In Ursa Major. Considered to have doubtful claims to be a 'proper' Messier object.

M41

Galactic Cluster

Situated about 4° below Sirius. Has a distinctly red star at the center.

M42 Orion Nebula

HII Region
M42

Four of the stars at the center of the nebula are actually visble - they are known as the Trapezium. The Trapezium stars are massive - maybe up to 50 solar masses and are part of a cluster born less than a million years ago. In 1880, Henry Draper took a photograph of M42, becoming the first person to photograph a nebula.

M43

Just north of the main mass of M42.

M44

Galactic Cluster
Praesepe. Galactic cluster in Cancer, close to the ecliptic. Galileo was the first to observe it by telescope and apparently made the reference to 'looking like bees areound a hive' that gives it its name. It lies in the center of a triangle formed by Regulus, Pollux and Procyon, and is flanked by two stars - Delta and Gamma Cancri. In a dark sky, it can be seen as a faint smudge by the naked eye, and it is stated that its visibility can be used as a test of the quality of the sky.

M45 Pleiades

Pleiades
Galactic Cluster

50 million years old, so the stars probably did not exist during the Age of the Dinosaurs. The nebula contains over 500 stars. About 400 light years distant.

M46

Galactic Cluster

In Puppis, East of Sirius. Also contains the planetary nebula NGC 2438 in its field of view.

M47

Galactic Cluster

In Puppis, East of Sirius, but slightly closer to the star than M46.

M48

Galactic Cluster

About 30° east of Sirius. Surrounded by some mystery as Messier appears to have misreported its position. Now it seems to be accepted that Messier's M48 was actually NGC 2548.

M49

M49
Elliptical Galaxy

In Virgo. One of the brightest in the Virgo Cluster - slightly bigger and brighter than M87.

M50

Galactic Cluster

In Monoceros, about 8° North, 3° East of Sirius towards Procyon.

M51 Whirlpool Galaxy

Whirlpool Galaxy

Spiral Galaxy, Type Sbc

It appears face-on to us and was the first Messier object in which spiral features were recognized (by William Parsons in 1855), although it was not recognized as a galaxy at the time. Found in the northern constellation of Canes Venatici. A smaller galaxy, NGC 5195, appears to lie at the end of one of the Whirlpool's spiral arms but in fact lies behind the arm. The companion galaxy is thought to be orbiting around the Whirlpool every 500 million years or so, but the orbit is shrinking and the two galaxies will merge after two or three more orbits. The Whirlpool lies about 15 million light years away.

M52

Galactic Cluster

In Cassiopeia, found by following α and β upwards (these are the two stars on the right hand line of the 'W'. Fairly young by astronomical standards.

M53

Globular Cluster

In Coma Berenices

M55

Globular Cluster

M56

Globular Cluster

In Lyra. One of the fainter Messier objects.

M57 Ring Nebula

M57:Ring Nebula
Planetary Nebula
In Lyra.

Recent results suggest that the nebula might be a torus rather than a sphere.

M58

Spiral Galaxy Sb

In Virgo Cluster. Bar shaped central feature surrounded by a diffuse halo.

M59

Elliptical Galaxy

In Virgo Cluster. The most elongated in Messier's list.

M60

Elliptical Galaxy

In Virgo Cluster

M61

Spirals Galaxy

In Virgo Cluster

M62

Globular Cluster

In Ophiuchus

M63

Spiral Galaxy

The Sunflower Galaxy in Canes Venatici.


M64, Blackeye Galaxy

Spiral Galaxy

One of the brightest galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, with a magnitude of 8.5.

A huge cloud of dust gives it its common name

M65

Spiral Galaxy

In Leo. Almost edge on to us.

M66

Spiral Galaxy

Leo

M67

Galactic Cluster
One of the oldest open clusters known - 10 billion years old. About 10° South of M44, the Beehive. Well away from the plane of the Galaxy so has avoided being disrupted and broken up.

M68

Globular Cluster

In Hydra. One of the fainter Messier objects.

M71

Maybe Galactic, maybe Globular Cluster

In Sagitta. Close to, and South of, M27. Majority opinion seems to be that it is a (sparsely-populated) globular cluster, without the bright core typical of such objects.

M72

Globular Cluster

In Aquarius

M73

Four Faint Stars

In Aquarius. Considered to have 'doubtful' claims to be a 'proper' Messier object.

M74

Spiral Galaxy

Face-on spiral in Pisces.

M76

Planetary Nebula
In Perseus, between γ Andromodae and &delat; Cassiopeiae. Sometimes nicknamed the 'Little Dumbbell'. The faintest of all Messier Objects. A telescope will show it as two areas of light almost in contact, which is why it has two NGC numbers - NGC 650 and 651). Incidentally, the brightest Planetary Nebula is NGC 7293 in Aquarius, which was not included in Messier's list.

M77

M77
Seyfert Galaxy (Spiral, type Sb)
In Cetus. The light from the active nucleus can vary over a period of a few days. Consequently, sometimes M77 is bright and sometimes difficult to see

M78

Just North of Orion's belt

M79

Globular Cluster

In Lepus

M80

Globular Cluster

In Scorpius

M81,M82

M81 and M82
M81 (left) is a Spiral Galaxy, M82 (right) is a Starburst Galaxy

Ursa Major.

M83

M83
Spiral Galaxy, Type Sc

Barred spiral?

M84

Virgo Cluster showing M84 and M86

S0 Galaxy

The image above shows a section of the Virgo Cluster, with M84 being the bright galaxy at the very right.

M85

S0 Galaxy

In the Virgo Cluster

M86

Elliptical Galaxy, type E1

This is galaxy is shown in the image accompanying M84 above. M86 is the bright galaxy just to the right of top center.

M87

M87
Elliptical Galaxy, type E0

A giant elliptical at the heart of the Virgo Cluster. It is also a radio source (known as Virgo A) and its X-ray emission is over 10 times its combined optical and radio emissions. A jet of hot gas 4 000 light years long is seen being shot out of what is usually agreed to be a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. Interesting features of the galaxy seem to require professional telescopes. It has one of the largest collection of globular clusters known.


M88

Galaxy

Virgo Cluster

M89

Elliptical Galaxy, type E0

In the Virgo Cluster

M90

Spiral Galaxy

In the Virgo Cluster

M91

>Spiral Galaxy

Barred spiral, some doubt exists as to whether this galaxy seen at the relevant position is the 'original' Messier object, being very faint.

M92

Globular Cluster

Hercules

M93

Galactic Cluster

East of Canis Major

M94

Spiral Galaxies

In Canes Venatici. Tightly wound spiral. Face on to us.

M95

Barred Spiral Galaxy

Barred spiral in Leo

M96

Spiral Galaxy

Leo

M97 Owl Nebula

Owl Nebula

In Ursa Major. Observed by William Parsons. It is one of the largest planetary nebulas and is therefore also fairly faint. Its magnitude is about 10, one of the dimmest Messier objects.

M98

Spiral Galaxy

Virgo Cluster. Marks the western boundary of the Virgo Cluster.

M99

>Spiral Galaxy Sc

Virgo Cluster

M100

m100
Spiral Galaxy

The spiral galaxy M100 is between 35 million and 80 million light-years from the earth.

Virgo Cluster.

M101

Large face-on spiral in Ursa Major. Several of the HII regions in its arms have their own NGC number.

M102

'Missing!' (possibly S0 galaxy)

Seemingly most observers believe there was a typo in Messier's originally stated position (near omicron Bootes should have read near theta Bootes) and that M102 is NGC 5866

M103

Galactic Cluster

In Cassiopeia, close to the 'bottom' of the 'left-hand line' of the 'W'.

M104 Sombrero Galaxy

Spiral Galaxy Type Sa

Appears to be a part of the Virgo Cluster although not situted near the main concentration.

M105

Elliptical Galaxy

Leo

M106


M108


M109

face-on barred spiral

M110

Elliptical Galaxy, Type E6
companion of M31 (below and to the right of it). Also NGC 225, which might be useful to know because apparently there are astronomers who have not fully accepted its status as M110.

Crab Nebula

Big Red Spot on Jupiter