The Messier catalog comprises nearly all the most spectacular examples of the five types of deep sky object – diffuse nebulae, planetary nebulae, open clusters, globular clusters, and galaxies – visible from European latitudes. Furthermore, almost all of the Messier objects are among the closest to our planet in their respective classes, which makes them heavily studied with professional class instruments that today can resolve very small and visually spectacular details in them. A summary of the astrophysics of each Messier object can be found in the Concise Catalog of Deep-sky Objects.
Since these objects could be observed visually with the relatively small-aperture refracting telescope (approximately 100 mm, or four inches) used by Messier to study the sky, they are among the brightest and therefore most attractive astronomical objects (popularly called “deep sky objects”) observable from Earth, and are popular targets for visual study and photography available to modern amateur astronomers using larger aperture equipment. In early spring, astronomers sometimes gather for “Messier Marathons“, when all of the objects can be viewed over a single night, usually during the month of March.
So, you want to be a Messier Hunter? No problem. The Messier Catalog, by its very nature, has some of the easiest objects to find in the night sky. Our Club is hosting an informal Messier Certificate program that will award a special Certificate for observing milestones at 30 Objects, 70 Objects and a Completion Certificate when you reach 110. Messier Objects can be observed in any order and notated on our Observation Form found under “Tools”. Below you’ll also find a document that lists them in order of observation if you wish to complete a proper Messier Marathon in a single night!
Good Hunting and Clear Skies !!