Tonight's Sky
Sun
Sun
Moon
Moon
Mercury
Mercury
Venus
Venus
Mars
Mars
Jupiter
Jupiter
Saturn
Saturn

Tonight's Sky — Change location

OR

Searching...

Tonight's Sky — Select location

Tonight's Sky — Enter coordinates

° '
° '

Hubble reboots Messier Catalog

NASA used images from the Hubble Space Telescope to create their own version of the Messier catalog.
messier106
For this stunning image of the spiral galaxy M106, multiple exposures from Hubble were combined with ground-based images from the amateur astronomer Robert Gendler. The galaxy was initially discovered in 1781 by Pierre Mechain, Charles Messier’s observing assistant.
NASA/ESA/The Hubble Heritage Team/R. Gendler
Today, NASA published the Hubble Space Telescope’s version of the Messier catalog, a list of 110 deep-sky objects (including nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies) that French astronomer Charles Messier began almost 250 years ago.

This new reboot of the Messier collection features beautiful Hubble images of 63 deep-sky objects from the original catalog. While astronomy enthusiasts may see some images they have seen before (such as the Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula), the catalog also includes several unpublished images that NASA processed specifically for this project.
charlesmessier
Charles Messier (1730-1817) was a French astronomy and comet hunter who compiled a catalog of deep-sky objects that were definitely not comets. Instead of using the cosmic directory to avoid wasting observing time, many amateur astronomers now use the Messier Catalog to identify the most beautiful and easy-to-find targets. A detailed article about Messier and his catalog is available on NASA’s website.
R. Stoyan et al., Atlas of Messier Objects: Highlights of the Deep Sky
In the 1800/1801 edition of Connaissance des Temps (Knowledge of Time) — the oldest yearly publication of astronomical sky maps — Messier described why he started the now-famous Messier catalog:

“What caused me to undertake the catalog was the nebula I discovered above the southern horn of Taurus on September 12, 1758, while 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 not confuse these same nebulae with comets just beginning to shine.”

Although Messier originally created his catalog so that he could explicitly avoid observing deep-sky objects while he was comet hunting, today amateur astronomers from around the world rely on the Messier catalog to provide them with targets that are both visually stunning and easily locatable.

As part of the Messier reboot, each Hubble image has an extended caption that beautifully describes the cosmic object, providing both historical and scientific context. Many of the most familiar objects are also shown in multiple wavelengths, revealing invisible structures that are both mysterious and fascinating. Finally, each image comes with a star chart and instructions that explain how amateur observers can locate each target.

You can browse the entire Hubble version of the Messier catalog either on NASA's website or as an album on Flickr. Additionally, NASA will host a Facebook Live event about the new Hubble Messier catalog tonight at 8 p.m. EDT. During the event, the public will have the opportunity to ask questions to a panel of experts, while also learning more background on the Messier catalog.
0

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Read and share your comments on this article
Comment on this article
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of Astronomy.com are allowed to comment on this article. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
0 comments
ADVERTISEMENT

FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Receive news, sky-event information, observing tips, and more from Astronomy's weekly email newsletter.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
asy_gravitational_eguide

Click here to receive a FREE e-Guide exclusively from Astronomy magazine.

Find us on Facebook