ⓘ Messier catalogue

Messier catalogue

ⓘ Messier catalogue

The Messier Catalogue is a list of astronomical objects made by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1771. Messier was a comet hunter, and was annoyed by fuzzy objects which were not comets. He put together a list of these objects, with his assistant Pierre Mechain.

The list uses numbers with an M in front. Messier was limited by the objects he could see from France, so the list is incomplete by todays standards. It remains popular because people have used it for centuries and they are familiar with it.

The first edition covered 45 objects numbered M1 to M45. The total list published by Messier finally contained 103 objects, and the list was made up to 110 by modern astronomers working from Messiers notes.

Other catalogues exist, most notably the New General Catalogue.


1. Items on the list

Almost all the items are either star clusters or nebulae. There are only three galaxies in the first fifty, starting with Andromeda at M31. Individual stars are not listed. The first ten in the list are:

  • M6: NGC 6405 Butterfly cluster, an open cluster
  • M3: NGC 5272 a globular cluster
  • M5: NGC 5904 a globular cluster
  • M8: NGC 6523 Lagoon nebula, a nebula with a cluster
  • M7: NGC 6475 Ptolemy cluster, an open cluster
  • M1: NGC 1952 Crab nebula, a supernova remnant
  • M4: NGC 6121 a globular cluster
  • M2: NGC 7089 a globular cluster
  • M10: NGC 6254 a globular cluster
  • M9: NGC 6333 a globular cluster
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