Messier object

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Crab nebula, the first Messier object
The Crab nebula, the first Messier object

The Messier objects are a collection of over 100 deep sky objects catalogued by Charles Messier.[1] Messier, who created the list between 1758 and 1782, listed various objects such as galaxies, nebulae, globular clusters and binary stars. Messier enjoyed searching for comets in the night sky and created the Messier catalogue as a list of objects often mistaken for comets.[1] This allowed him to quickly check if a newly found object was already known and therefore not a comet. As they only require binoculars or a small telescope to observe them with, they are popular targets for amateur astronomers. The list includes some famous objects such as the Cigar Galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy and the Crab nebula.

History

Charles Messier produced the list with the help of his collegue Pierre Méchain and first published his list in 1774 in the journal of the French Academy of Sciences in Paris in a work entitiled "Mémoires de l’Academie".[1] This early version contained a total of 45 objects. A final version of the catalogue was produced in 1782 and contained a total of 103 deep sky objects. A further 7 objects were added to the catalogue after Messier's death between 1921 and 1996.[1] These were added as evidence was uncovered that they had been observed by Messier or Méchain.

List

The following is a list of the 110 Messier objects.[2]

Messier objects
Designation Common Name Type Constellation Distance (ly) Apparent Magnitude Notes
M1 Crab Nebula Supernova remnant Taurus 6,500 8.4 One of the most spectacular Messier objects. The supernova occurred in 1054 AD.
M2 Globular cluster Aquarius 37,500 6.3 It was first discovered by Maraldi in 1746 and rediscovered by Messier 14 years later. This cluster contains 150,000 [[star]s.
M3 Globular cluster Canes Venatici 33,900 6.2 M3 is thought to be home to at least 500,000 stars and is well known for the large number of variable stars it contains. Discovered by Messier in 1764, it is just visible to the naked eye if conditions are good.
M4 Globular cluster Scorpius 7,200 5.9 Discovered by Philippe Loys de Chéseaux in 1745-46, it is one of the nearest clusters to Earth. Unusually for a cluster, it possesses a bar like structure. It also contains much interstellar material.
M5 Globular cluster Serpens 24,500 6.65 It was first observed by Gottfried Kirch in 1702 and is elliptical in nature.
M6 Butterfly Cluster Open cluster Scorpius 1,600 4.2 Discovered by Hodierna at some time before 1654, the Butterfly cluster contains many variable stars. This means the brightness of the cluster varies noticeably.
M7 Ptolemy's Cluster Open cluster Scorpius 980 3.3 This cluster has been known since ancient times with the first recorded observation by Claudius Ptolemy. It contains around 80 stars within a volume 25 light years wide.
M8 Lagoon Nebula Emission Nebula Sagittarius 4,100 6.0 This is a star forming cluster can contains at least 5o stars. The light produced by hot stars results in the nebula "glowing."
M9 Globular cluster Ophiuchus 25,800 8.42 M9 is located close to the centre of the Milky Way. Although too faint for the naked eye, its 250,000 stars make it a truly impressive cluster.
M10 Globular cluster Ophiuchus 16,000 6.4
M11 Wild Duck Cluster Open cluster Scutum 6,200 6.3 Home to 2,900 stars, the Wild Duck Cluster is one on the most compact clusters known. Through binoculars, it appears diamond shaped. The brightest stars in the cluster form a V shape and are said to look like a flock of ducks in flight.
M12 Gumball Globular Globular cluster Ophiuchus 15,700 7.68 M12 is 75 light years across and contains 200,000 stars.
M13 Hercules Globular Cluster Globular cluster Hercules 22,200 5.8 Containing 300,000 stars, the Hercules Globular cluster can be seen with the naked eye. Messier added it to his catalogue in in 1764.
M14 Globular cluster Ophiuchus 30,300 7.6
M15 Great Pegasus Cluster Globular cluster Pegasus 33,600 6.2
M16 Eagle Nebula Nebula Serpens 7,000 6.0 It is best known for the "pillars of creation" photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995.
M17 Omega Nebula Nebula Sagittarius 5,000-6,000 6.0 M17 is one of the brightest star-forming nebulae in the Milky Way. It is situated in the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way. It is also known as the Lobster nebula, Horseshoe nebula, Swan nebula and the Checkmark nebula.
M18 Open cluster Sagittarius 4,900 7.5
M19 Globular cluster Ophiuchus 28,700 7.47 One of the most oblate cluster known. However, this may be due to intervening gas and dust, blocking our view.
M20 Trifid Nebula Dark nebula Sagittarius 5,200 6.3 Also catalogued as Barnard 85, it is a well known star forming region. Its brightness makes it a popular target for astronomers. It is located near to the Lagoon nebula, M8.
M21 Open cluster Sagittarius 4,250 6.5
M22 Sagittarius Cluster Globular cluster Sagittarius 10,600 5.5 Visible to the naked eye in good conditions.
M23 Open cluster Sagittarius 2,150 6.9
M24 Sagittarius Star Cloud Star cloud Sagittarius 10,000 4.6 It is the densest star cloud visible with binoculars and located in the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way.
M25 Open cluster Sagittarius 2,000 4.6
M26 Open cluster Scutum 5,000 8.0
M27 Dumbbell Nebula Planetary nebula Vulpecula 1,360 7.5 It is the second brightest planetary nebula in the night sky.
M28 Globular cluster Sagittarius 17,900 7.66
M29 Open cluster Cygnus 4,000 7.1 Is visible with a small telescope
M30 Globular cluster Capricornus 27,140 7.7
M31 Andromeda Galaxy Spiral galaxy Andromeda 2,540,000 3.44 The Andromeda galaxy is our closest major galaxy. It is approaching us at 301 km/s and contains around 1 trillion stars.
M32 Le Gentil Dwarf galaxy Andromeda 2,490,000 8.08 M32 is a dwarf galaxy and a satellite galaxy of M31.
M33 Triangulum Galaxy Spiral galaxy Triangulum 2.38 to 3.07 million 5.72 The third largest galaxy in the Local group after Andromeda and the Milky Way. It is the nearest spiral galaxy after Andromeda.
M34 Open cluster Perseus 1,500 5.5
M35 Open cluster Gemini 2,800 5.3 The cluster contains several hundred stars.
M36 Pinwheel Cluster Open cluster Auringa 4,100 6.3
M37 Open cluster Auriga 4,511 6.2 Lying in the opposite direction from the galactic core, M37 contains over 500 stars, has a mass over 1,500 solar masses and is around 20-25 light years wide.
M38 Starfish Cluster Open cluster Auriga 4,200 7.4 Invisible to the naked eye, it contains at least 100 stars.
M39 Open cluster Cygnus 824.4 5.5 A large open cluster that appears larger than a full moon on the night sky.
M40 Winnecke 4 Double star Ursa Major 510 5.54 Not a deep sky object and was catalogued by mistake. It is composed of two stars, with magnitudes 9.65 and 10.10. These stars form an optical binary, meaning they line along the same line of sight but are not actually near each other. The furthest star is 1,900 light years away.
M41 Open cluster Canis Major 2,300 4.5 Relatively loose cluster containing 100 stars.
M42 Orion Nebula Emission-reflection nebula Orion 1,344 4.0 A famous nebula, it is visible to the naked eye. It forms the middle "star" in Orion's sword and covers four times more area than a full moon on the sky.
M43 De Mairan's Nebula Emission-reflection nebula Orion 1,600 9.0 Situated just below Orion's belt, it is separated from the Orion nebula by a dust lane.
M44 Beehive Cluster Open cluster Cancer 577 3.7 Visible to the naked eye, this cluster has been knwon since ancient times. It contains at least 1000 stars and has a mass between 500 to 600 that of the sun.
M45 Pleiades Open cluster Taurus 444 1.6 Also known as the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades contains over 1,000 stars, though only 14 are visible without binoculars.
M46 Open cluster Puppis 5,400 6.1 Contains around 500 stars.
M47 Open cluster Puppis 1,600 4.2
M48 Open cluster Hydra 1,500 5.5 Has a diameter of 23 light years and contains more than 80 stars.
M49 Elliptical galaxy Virgo 55,900,000 9.4 Brightest member of the Virgo cluster and the second galaxy found outside the Local Group.
M50 Heart-Shaped Cluster Open cluster Monoceros 3,200 5.9 M50 contains at least 100 stars.
M51 Whirlpool Galaxy Spiral galaxy Canes Venatici 23,000,000 8.4 A very impressive, it was the first galaxy to be seen with spiral features
M52 Open cluster Cassiopeia 5,000 5.0
M53 Globular cluster Coma Berenices 58,000 8.33
M54 Globular cluster Sagittarius 87,400 8.37 This extragalactic globular cluster was the first to be discovered outside our galaxy. It most likely belongs to the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy that orbits our own Milky Way.
M55 Summer Rose Star Globular cluster Sagittarius 17,600 7.42 Almost 100 light years across, it contains 100,000 stars with a mass of 269,000 times that of the sun.
M56 Globular cluster Lyra 32,900 8.3
M57 Ring Nebula Planetary nebula Lyra 2,300 8.8 Famous nebula, sometimes known as the "donut" nebula. It is one of four planetary nebulae in Messier's list.
M58 Spiral galaxy Virgo 62,000,000 10.5 This barred spiral galaxy is an "anemic" galaxy, meaning there is little contrast between the disk and its spiral arms.
M59 Elliptical galaxy Virgo 60,000,000 10.6 Messier 59 contains an exceptionally high number of globular clusters, estimated at 2,200.
M60 Elliptical galaxy Virgo 55,000,000 9.8 Third brightest member of the Virgo Cluster, which contains over 1,300 galaxies.
M61 Spiral galaxy Virgo 52,500,000 10.18 This spiral galaxy possesses a bar. It is roughly the same size as the Milk Way.
M62 Globular cluster Ophiuchus 22,200 7.39 M62 is quite a dense cluster and found only 6,100 light years from the centre of the Milky Way.
M63 Sunflower Galaxy Spiral galaxy Canes Venatici 37,000,000 9.3 The Sunflower galaxy contains many spiral arms, meaning it is a prototype galaxy for a class called "flocculent spirals."
M64 Black Eye Galaxy Spiral galaxy Coma Berenices 24,000,000 9.36 Also known as the Evil Eye galaxy or the Sleeping Beauty galaxy, Messier 64 contains an extraordinarily large dust lane, making for an impressive sight.
M65 Spiral galaxy Leo 35,000,000 10.25
M66 Spiral galaxy Leo 36,000,000 8.9 It is the largest and brightest of the Leo triplet of galaxies.
M67 King Cobra Cluster Open cluster Cancer 2,610-2,930 6.1 About the size of a full moon, it is one of the oldest clusters known.
M68 Globular cluster Hydra 33,600 9.67
M69 Globular cluster Sagittarius 29,700 8.31
M70 Globular cluster Sagittarius 29,400 9.06
M71 Globular cluster Sagitta 13,000 6.1
M72 Globular cluster Aquarius 54,570 9.35
M73 Asterism Aquarius Various 9 Formed by four unrelated stars. These stars form a Y shape as they all lie along the same line of sight from Earth.
M74 Phantom Galaxy Spiral galaxy Pisces 30,000,000 10 Thought to contain 100 billion stars, the Phantom galaxy is around the same size as the Milky Way.
M75 Globular cluster Sagittarius 76,500 9.18 M75 has a diameter of 134 light years. It has the highest density classification of 1 and contains over 400,000 stars.
M76 Little Dumbbell Nebula Planetary nebula Perseus 2,500 10.1 Sometimes called the Cork nebula or the Barbell nebula, it is named for its resemblance to the larger Dumbbell nebula.
M77 Cetus A Spiral galaxy Cetus 47,000,000 9.6 A barred spiral galaxy, it is the nearest Seyfert galaxy to the Milky Way.
M78 Reflection nebula Orion 1,600 8.3
M79 Globular cluster Lepus 41,000 8.56
M80 Globular cluster Scorpius 32,600 7.87 Contains over 200,000 stars.
M81 Bode's Galaxy Spiral galaxy Ursa Major 11,800,000 6.94 This [Grand design galaxy]] is one of the largest and nearest to the Local Group.
M82 Cigar Galaxy Starburst galaxy Ursa Major 11,400,000-12,400,000 8.41 One of the more impressive galaxies in Messier's catalogue, it is five times brighter than the Milky Way.
M83 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy Spiral galaxy Hydra 15,210,000 7.54 Half the size of the Milky Way, Messier 83 contains a bar.
M84 Galaxy Virgo 60,000,000 10.1 This galaxy may be elliptical or lenticular in nature. It is a member of the Virgo Cluster.
M85 Galaxy Coma Berenices 60,000,000 10 M85 was thought to be classified as S0 (a [[lenticular galaxy) but is now thought to be E1 (an elliptical galaxy).
M86 Galaxy Virgo 52,000,000 9.8 Messier 85 is sometimes classified as an E3 elliptical galaxy or an S0 lenticular galaxy. Nowadays, it tends to be classified as lenticular. The galaxy contains at least 400 billion stars.
M87 Virgo A Elliptical galaxy Virgo 53,500,000 9.59 Also known as the Smoking Gun, M87 is a supergiant elliptical galaxy.
M88 Spiral galaxy Coma Berenices 47,000,000 10.4
M89 Elliptical galaxy Virgo 50,000,000 10.73
M90 Spiral galaxy Virgo 58,700,000 10.26 One of the larger spiral galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, it has a diameter of 165,000 light years.
M91 Spiral galaxy Coma Berenices 63,000,000 11 M91 is a barred spiral galaxy and the faintest of all the Messier objects. This makes it one of the most difficult to observe.
M92 Globular cluster Hercules 26,700 6.3 Messier 92 has an estimated mass of 330,000 solar masses.
M93 Open cluster Puppis 3,600 6.0 M93 contains over 80 stars.
M94 Cat's Eye Galaxy Spiral galaxy Canes Venatici 16,000,000 8.99 Also known as the Croc's Eye Galaxy, it is 50,000 light years across.
M95 Spiral galaxy Leo 32,600,000 11.4 M95 is one of the fainter objects in the Messier catalogue. It also possesses a bar and is 46,000 light years across.
M96 Spiral galaxy Leo 31,000,000 10.1
M97 Owl Nebula Planetary nebula Ursa Major 2,030 9.9 Named after two dark patches in the nebula that make it appear like the eyes of an owl, it has a spatial extension of 1.82 light years.
M98 Spiral galaxy Coma Berenices 44,400,000 11.0 Messier 98 is a member of the Virgo Cluster.
M99 Coma Pinwheel Spiral galaxy Coma Berenices 55,700,000 10.4 Sometimes called the Virgo Cluster Pinwheel, M99 contains two large spiral arms, one of which appears distorted.
M100 Spiral galaxy Coma Berenices 55,000,000 10.1
M101 Pinwheel Galaxy Spiral galaxy Ursa Major 20,900,000 7.86 The galaxy is 70% larger than the Milky Way and thought to contain 1 trillion stars.
M102 Spindle Galaxy Lenticular galaxy Draco 50,000,000 10.7 M102 is an edge-on lenticular galaxy. Unusual for a lenticular galaxy, it contains a large dust lane, leading some to believe it is in fact a spiral galaxy that has been misclassified.
M103 Open cluster Cassiopeia 10,000 7.4
M104 Sombrero Galaxy Spiral galaxy Virgo 29,300,000 8.98 It is named for its large dust lane and unusually large and bright bulge giving it the appearance of a Sombrero.
M105 Elliptical galaxy Leo 32,000,000 10.2
M106 Spiral galaxy Canes Venatici 23,700,000 9.1
M107 Globular cluster Ophiuchus 20,900 8.85
M108 Surfboard Galaxy Spiral galaxy Ursa Major 45,900,000 10.7 Classified as SBbc, it is a barred spiral galaxy with fairly loose arms.
M109 Spiral galaxy Ursa Major 83,500,000 10.6
M110 Edward Young Star Elliptical galaxy Andromeda 2,690,000 8.92 Messier 110 is a dwarf elliptical galaxy found near the Andromeda galaxy.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Messier objects from constellation-guide.com
  2. Information in table below is taken from messier.seds.org and messier-objects.com