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MESSIER
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
TO THE HEAVENS
Professor John C. Mannone
Tamke-Allan Observatory
March 20, 2004
Charles Messier
June 26, 1730 - April 12, 1817
As a young astronomer in Paris in 1758,
he early became involved in the search
for Halley's comet which was predicted
for 1758-59.
The celebrated French astronomer
discovered 20 comets (13 original). Of
the 50 comets of 1758-1806, when
Messier actively searched for them, he
observed and described a total of 44.
He also produced the Catalog of Nebulae
and Star Clusters
1730, June 26
Charles Messier was born in Badonviller, Lorraine, France; 10th of 12
children.
1741
The Father of Messier dies.
1772
Birth of Messier's son, Antoine-Charles (March 15), followed by the
death of both Madame Messier (March 23) and their son (March 26).
1817, April 11-12
In this night, Charles Messier passed away in his 87th year, in his
home in Paris.
Some Family Details
1744
The young Messier observes a great comet from Lorraine still.
1748, July 25
An annular solar eclipse is visible from France, and observed by the
young Messier.
1751
The 21 year old Charles Messier goes to Paris and gets employed by
Nicholas Delisle; gets advised to astronomical observing and
recording.
1754
Regular appointment as Depot Clerk of the Navy.
Early Interest in Astronomy
The 6-Tail Comet C/1743 X1, 1744
Date first reported
Dirk Klinkenberg
Philippe Loys de Chéseaux
1743 Nov
1743 Dec 9
1743 Dec13
Observational interval
Perihelion
1744 Mar 01
Perigee
1744 Feb 27
110 days
0.22AU
0.83 AU
Magnitude
-3
1744 Feb 20
Visible in daylight only 12 degrees from the Sun on
February 27.
Great Comets in History
Donald K. Yeomans
Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology
Loraine, France
5:18 AM
Metz-Nancy-Lorraine
Lat: 48.98N, Lon: 6.25E
July 25, 1748
Annular Eclipse
Sunrise 5:19 AM
Transits 12:40 PM
12:40 PM
Starry Night Backyard v 3.1
1757
Messier begins his search for comet Halley.
1759
Messier independently discovers and observes Comet Halley (1759 I)
from January 21 to June 3.
1761
Observation of a Venus transit
1782 November
Observes Mercury transit.
1801
First asteroid (Ceres) discovered. Messier co-discovers Comet 1801 Pons
(July 12).
Discovers 44/50 comets 1758-1806
Comet Hunter and…
Comet 1779 Bode
Messier co-discovers January 19, 1779.
1781
At the beginning of this year, he cataloged M80-M100. Added
Méchain's objects M101-M103 (without validatio). Readies his list final
publication in Connaissance des Temps for 1784.
1782
April: The last Messier object, M107, was discovered by Pierre Méchain.
August: William Herschel begins his deep-sky survey, stimulated by
Messier's catalog.
On September 7, he originally discovers his first deepsky object: The
Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009).
1786
Herschel's first catalog of 1,000 "nebulous objects" published.
Star Maps and Catalogue
In the Connaissance des Temps for 1801 he lined out:
``What caused me to undertake the catalog was the nebula I
discovered above the southern horn of Taurus on September 12,
1758, whilst observing the comet of that year. This nebula had
such a resemblance to a comet in its form and brightness that I
endeavored to find others, so that astronomers would no more
confuse these same nebulae with comets just beginning to
appear. I observed further with suitable refractors for the
discovery of comets, and this is the purpose I had in mind in
compiling the catalog.
After me, the celebrated Herschel published a catalog of 2000
which he has observed. This unveiling the heavens, made with
instruments of great aperture, does not help in the perusal of the
sky for faint comets. Thus my object is different from his, and I
need only nebulae visible in a telescope of two feet [focal
length]. Since the publication of my catalog, I have observed
still others: I will publish them in the future in the order of right
ascension for the purpose of making them more easy to
recognise and for those searching for comets to have less
uncertainty.''
Types of Messier Object
Nebulae
Supernova Remnants
Planetary Nebulae
Diffuse Nebulae
Clusters
Open Clusters
Globular Clusters
Galaxies
Spiral Galaxies
Lenticular Galaxies
Elliptical Galaxies
Irregular Galaxies
Other
11
Total
110
1
4
6
56
27
29
40
27
4
8
1
3
Refer to Starry Night Backyard v 3.1 Planetarium Software
For Distribution of Messier Objects
Messier Marathon
Ordinary refractor
Achromatic refractor
Achromatic refractor
Ordinary refractor
Ordinary refractor
Campani refractor
Gregorian reflector
Gregorian reflector
Newtonian reflector
Refractor
Refractor
25 ft FL, 138x
10.5 ft FL, owned by M. de Courtanvaux, 120x
3.25 ft FL (Dollond), owned by Duc de Chaulnes,
120x
23 ft FL, 102x
30 ft FL, owned by M. Baudouin, 117x
Owned by M. Maraldi, 64x
6 ft FL, owned by M. Lemonnier, 110x
30 ft FL, 6 inch aperture, 104x
4.5 ft FL, 60x
1 ft FL, 3-inch aperture, owned by M. de Saron, 44x
19 ft FL, of the Paris Observatory, 76x
Messier's favorite instruments (below)
Gregorian reflector 32 ft FL, 7.5-inch aperture, 104x
(Sky & Telescope Owen, Gingerich)
Achromatic refractors, 3.5 ft long, 3.5-inch (90 mm), 120x
7.5 to 8 inch aperture reflectors of speculum metal , they had little
light gathering power (glass mirrors came in use only in the
1850s).
Bailly has computed that the effective aperture of this instrument
was equivalent to a 3.5-inch refractor.
All of Messier's instruments could probably not compete with a
modern 4-inch refractor (or unobstructed reflector, e.g., a
Schiefspiegler) or 6-inch Newton reflector.
Therefore, even moderately equipped amateurs of current days
can easily hunt down all the objects he observed and cataloged.
SELECTED EXAMPLES OF MESSIER OBJECTS
GALAXIES
A Family of Stars
M31
Messier’s Sketch
M31
The Andromeda Galaxy
Spiral
Milky Way’s Closest Galactic Neighbor > 2 million ly
The Electronic Universe Project
APOD July 24, 1995
M32
Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy
Companion to M31
Elliptical galaxies are devoid of Star Forming Regions
1.1 Meter Hall Telescope, Lowell Observatory, Bill Keel (U. Alabama)
APOD Jan 6, 1996
Visitors' Galaxy Gallery
M61
NGC 4449
NGC 5068
NGC 5247
NGC 4725
NGC 5775/5774
Courtesy Adam Block (KPNO Visitor Program), NOAO, NSF APOD 4/27/01
1769
March 4: M42-M45 added to the
catalog; first version finished.
DIFFUSE NEBULA
Stellar Nursery
Oct 29,1995 3:25 UT Exposure:
60 min Field of View: 24o x 35o
Emulsion: Kodak Ektachrome
400 Elite Optics: f=55mm 1/3.5
Place: Calar Alto Observer: T.
Credner ©
Normal camera and lens (focal
length 55mm)
CONSTELLATION ORION
M42
Orion Nebula
Messier’s Sketch
Wisps of the Orion Nebula
John P. Gleason (Celestial Images)
3D Model of the Orion Nebula
Hubble imagery is color
corrected to remove the
reddening effects of dust
and gas between Earth
and the nebula.
A 2.5 minute fly-through
animation required about
31,000 high-resolution
images.
The Orion Nebula, as seen from a virtual spacecraft
looking under the Dark Bay
The San Diego Supercomputer Center and
The American Museum of Natural History Hayden Planetarium
OPEN CLUSTERS
Young Stars
M45
Pleiades
Zoom-in to the Pleiades
M45
Animation Credit: STScI AVL Image Credits: Terence Dickinson (backyard view of
the Pleiades with Jupiter, Saturn and Hyades); STScI Digitized Sky Survey; Chuck
Vaughn (amateur astrophotographer -- 85-minute exposure taken with a 12.5" f/9
Ritchey-Chretien telescope); Hubble Heritage Team (NASA, STScI/AURA)
GLOBULAR CLUSTER
Very Old Stars
1764
His first own deep sky discovery of globular cluster
M3, cataloged on May 3, probably causes him to
undertake a systematical search for nebulous objects,
leading to the observation and recording of the
objects M3-M40, many of which were own
discoveries, but several from old catalogs. Messier
was made a member of the Royal Society of
London.
Globular Cluster M3
S. Kafka & K. Honeycutt (Indiana University), WIYN, NOAO, NSF APOD Sept 15, 2003
N-Body Dynamic Simulation
Starlab: Collisional Stellar Dynamics
Simulation of the 30 Doradus System with 12,144 stars
Globular Cluster in Large Magellanic Cloud
PLANETARY NEBULA
Death of Average Stars
M57
The Ring Nebula
Sky Image Lab
The end of a sun-like star's life was once thought to be
simple: the star gracefully casting off a shell of glowing gas
and thenM45
settling into a long retirement as a burned-out white
dwarf.
Hubble Sees Supersonic
Exhaust from Nebula
STScI-PRC1997-38
M2-9 "butterfly" or a
bipolar planetary nebula
Very close pair which orbit one another. Gravity of one star
pulls weakly bound gas from the surface of the other and
flings it into a thin, dense disk which surrounds both stars
and extends well into space.
Animation Duplicates the Butterfly
SUPERNOVA REMNANT
Death of Massive Stars
1758
Messier independently discovers
M1, the Crab Nebula (August 28,
measured September 12)
Starry Night Backyard v3.1
M1
The Crab Nebula
Starry Night Backyard v3.1
M1
Also called Taurus A
FORS Team, 8.2-meter VLT, ESO APOD Mar 25, 2001
RADIO POETRY
By John C. Mannone
"M"
How mysterious O' nebulous tendrilled shard
Delirious bard, you who shout in measured yard
Celestial chimes that echo colored rings
As floral pines in scented breeze do swing
Auroral rhymes are plucked on spectral strings
The choral lines in vented glees do bring
These dancing fireflies by magnet drawn
Which swarm the cosmic skies
Enchants the heart until the dawn
Puts sparkles in the eyes.
How beautiful this blue veil-ed and speckled cloud
Laudable shroud, its twisted furrows, crimson plowed
With lonely single stellar jewel adorned
Is mingled with the oxen's pointed horn
And scintill'ed shine amidst the gases torn
Through wrinkled space this remnant light sojourns
A broken heart of once a noble king
Throbs still, though torn apart
Begins its summer song to sing
In solstice morning light.
John C. Mannone Nov 7, 2003

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