Crab Nebula (M1) – T1 hm Supernova remnant in constellation Taurus Distance: 6500 LY Size of nebula: about 15 LY Size of pulsar (neutron star) at center: about 10-15 km Supernova witnessed by Chinese and possibly by native Americans in 1054 Nebula discovered in 1731 by John Bevis of London, then independently by Charles Messier in 1758
Hotel de Cluny In 1751, Messier got a job as a clerk and draftsman for the Royal Naval Astronomer, Joseph Nicolas Delisle. The observatory was located in the Hotel de Cluny, a monastery guest house built in the 15 th century. In Messier’s time, it was rented to the French Royal Navy. The observatory was in the pyramid-shaped top of the central tower seen here.
Mercury Transit, November 2006 Mercury’s shadow at lower left, sun spot also near upper left limb. 09 November 2006 19:58:58 UTC David Levy’s Jarnac Observatory, Arizona Picture and caption are courtesy of Slooh member Derek Hirons
Route of Halley’s Comet as calculated by Delisle Expected route of Halley’s comet in 1758, as calculated by Nicolas Delisle, shown on a star chart drawn by Charles Messier. Unfortunately, Delisle had made an error in calculation, and was therefore requesting that Messier search for the comet in the wrong part of the sky. Messier later wrote: “I was a loyal servant of M. Delisle, I lived with him in his house, and I conformed with his command.”
Crab Nebula diagrammed by Messier While searching in the wrong place for Halley’s comet, Messier discovered a faint fuzzy spot near the star Zeta Tauri – but it didn’t move, so it wasn’t a comet. Messier later wrote: “I discovered above the southern horn, and little distant from the star Zeta of that constellation, a whitish light, elongated in the form of the light of a candle, which didn't contain any star.”
Crab Nebula (M1) – T1 wf Supernova remnant in constellation Taurus Distance: 6500 LY Size of nebula: about 15 LY Size of pulsar (neutron star) at center: about 10-15 km Nebula discovered in 1731 by John Bevis of London, then independently by Charles Messier in 1758 Nebula in center of this wide-field view; bright star Zeta Tauri is below/left of nebula
Route of Halley’s Comet as observed by Messier Messier finally found Halley’s comet in January 1759, while searching the sky in the area of Pisces. This sky chart, drawn by Messier, shows his observations. An amateur German astronomer had already sighted the return of Halley’s comet in December 1758, but Messier didn’t know that at the time.
Venus Transit, June 2004 Venus Transit seen on Slooh 08 June 2004 11:22:36 UTC Canary Islands Dome 2 High Mag Picture and caption are courtesy of Slooh member Derek Hirons
Rich Globular Cluster (M3) – T2 hm Globular cluster in constellation Canes venatici Distance: 30,000 LY Size: 160 LY Age: 12-14 billion years Discovered by Charles Messier in 1764.
Rich Globular Cluster (M3) – T1 hm Globular cluster in constellation Canes venatici Distance: 30,000 LY Size: 160 LY Age: 12-14 billion years Mass: about 800,000 solar masses One of the largest globular clusters known
Messier Drawing of Orion Nebula Drawing of the Orion Nebula, M42 and M43, by Charles Messier in 1774. Messier’s description of M42: “ The beautiful nebula in the sword of Orion, around the star Theta which it contains [together] with three other smaller stars which one cannot see but with good instruments. . . . Messier has entered into the great details in this great nebula; he has created a drawing, made with the greatest care, which one can see in the Memoirs of the Academy for 1771, plate VIII . It was Huygens who discovered it in 1656: it has been observed since by many astronomers.” Messier’s description of M43: “ The little star surrounded by nebulosity and which is below the nebula of the sword of Orion. M. Messier has included it in the drawing of the Great [Nebula].”
Velvet Cluster (M46 ) – T1 hm Open cluster in constellation Puppis Distance: 5000 LY Size: 40 LY Age: 300 million years Discovered by Charles Messier in 1771 High-mag view shows center of cluster Planetary nebula NGC 2438 is not part of cluster; it is apparently a foreground object, estimated distance 3000 LY
Velvet Cluster (M46 ) and Open Cluster M47 – T1 wf Open cluster in constellation Puppis Distance: 5000 LY Size: 40 LY Age: 300 million years Discovered by Charles Messier in 1771 Wide-field view shows M46 at center, M47 at right, NGC 2423 above M47 Distance of M47: 2000 LY Size of M47: 18 LY
Dumbbell Nebula (M27 ) – T1 hm Planetary nebula in constellation Vulpecula Distance: 1000 LY Size: 1.5 LY Age: a few thousand years Discovered by Charles Messier in 1764 Messier’s description: “Nebula without star, discovered in Vulpecula . . . it appears of oval shape.”
Portrait of Charles Messier, 1771 This portrait of Charles Messier was painted in 1771, when he was 40 years old. Messier wrote: "This portrait is a good likeness, except that I appear younger than I am, and I have been given a better expression than I have." Around that time he also published the first version of his catalog (up to M45); became a member of the French Académie Royale des Sciences [Royal Academy of Sciences]; and was promoted to the position of Royal Naval Astronomer.
Whirlpool Galaxy (M51 ) – T2 hm Spiral galaxy in constellation Canes venatici Distance: 30 million LY Size: 100,000 LY Discovered by Charles Messier in 1773 Companion galaxy NGC 5195 (seen at top) discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1781 Messier described M51 as “a very faint nebula, without stars”; following Mechain’s discovery, Messier revised his description as a “double nebula” Bright spots (not seen by Messier) in spiral arms are star-forming regions
Whirlpool Galaxy (M51 ) – T2 wf Spiral galaxy in constellation Canes venatici Distance: 30 million LY Size: 100,000 LY Discovered by Charles Messier in 1773 Companion galaxy NGC 5195 discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1781 Spiral structure first detected by Lord Rosse in 1845, using a 72-inch aperture telescope, the “Leviathan”
Spiral Galaxy M65 – T1 hm Spiral galaxy in constellation Leo Distance: 35 million LY Size: 90,000 LY Discovered by Charles Messier in 1780 Member of the “Leo Trio”, a group of three interacting galaxies
“ The Leo Trio” – T2 wf Group of spiral galaxies in constellation Leo Distance: 35 million LY In this wide-field view, M65 is seen at center, M66 at left, NGC 3628 at top Size of galaxies: M65: 90,000 LY M66: 90,000 LY NGC 3628: 130,000 LY M65 and M66 discovered by Charles Messier in 1780 NGC 3628 discovered by William Herschel in 1784
Owl Nebula (M97) – T1 hm Planetary nebula in constellation Ursa major Distance: 2000 LY Complex structure: 3 elliptical shells of gas around central white dwarf star, which ionizes and illuminates them Discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1781
Owl Nebula (M97) and Spiral Galaxy M108 – T2 wf M97: Planetary nebula in constellation Ursa major Distance: 2000 LY In this wide-field view, nebula M97 is seen at bottom left, and spiral galaxy M108 at top right Both were discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1781, but Messier did not include the galaxy in the final edition of his catalog Based on Messier’s notes, M108 was added to catalog in 1953 Distance of M108: 40 million LY Size of M108: 100,000 LY
Messier Drawing of Andromeda “Nebula” Drawing of the Andromeda Galaxy and its two companions by Charles Messier. The drawing was published in 1807, but at the time Messier stated that he had seen both “small nebulae” when observing “the beautiful nebula of the girdle of Andromeda” in 1773. In Messier’s time, all fuzzy deep-sky objects – whether they were diffuse nebulae, unresolved star clusters, or distant galaxies – were referred to as “nebulae”. The nature of galaxies as “island universes” outside our Milky Way was discovered only in the 20 th century.
Portrait of Charles Messier, 1801 This portrait of Charles Messier was painted in 1801, when he was 70 years old. In 1806, Messier received the Cross of the Legion of Honor from Napoleon. In later years he continued to observe, but less and less due to deteriorating eyesight. He died in Paris in 1817, at the age of 86.
Sky Safari – A Slooh Production by Kochava Yerushalmit