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Messier Objects and Homebound Observing

18 Mar 2020, 21:49 UTC
Messier Objects and Homebound Observing
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Since we’re all spending a lot of time at home these days, now would be a cool time to do what’s called a “Messier Marathon”. It’s a one-night search for all the sky objects that astronomer Charles Messier cataloged while searching for comets. It’s something of a challenge, and not everybody finishes it, but the joy is in what you find while you’re on the hunt.

Messier’s Project

Charles Messier began studying the sky in the mid-18th century, and one of his goals was to record any comets that crossed the sky. Now, the sky is a big place, and there are a lot of things to observe. And, not surprisingly, as Messier searched for comets, he found a lot of other things that looked faint and fuzzy, but—alas—weren’t comets.

To update other observers, he decided to make a list of what he’d found and make it easier for comet hunters (especially) to ignore these objects. Today, the Messier Objects list contains information about 110 nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies and is referred to informally as “Messier Catalog”. It contains all the objects he personally studied by the naked eye and through his 100-mm telescope from his location ...

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