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Universe Today Guide to the Messier Objects

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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Well, Tammy’s done it again. Remember the Universe Today Guide to the Constellations? Well now Tammy has completed another monster volume. The Universe Today Guide to the Messier Objects. This is a guide to all 110 Messier Objects, from M1 (the Crab Nebula) to M110 (a satellite galaxy to Andromeda), and everything in between.

In addition to descriptions of the individual Messier Objects, there’s also a nice introduction to the Messier Objects, a guide to doing a Messier marathon, and suggestions for stretching your Messier marathon out to a week.

If you’ve got any questions, comments or feedback, please let us know. I’m sure there are going to be some bugs in there.

Thanks. And thanks again to the wonderful Tammy Plotner for grinding through this monster project.

M1M2M3M4M5M6M7M8M9M10M11M12M13M14M15M16M17M18M19M20M21M22M23M24M25M26M27M28M29M30M31M32M33M34M35M36M37M38M39M40M41M42M43M44M45M46M47M48M49M50M51M52M53M54M55M56M57M58M59M60M61M62M63M64M65M66M67M68M69M70M71M72M73M74M75M76M77M78M79M80M81M82M83M84M85M86M87M88M89M90M91M92M93M94M95M96M97M98M99M100M101M102M103M104M105M106M107M108M109M110

P.S. If you want to use any part of this information for any reason whatsoever, you’ve got my permission. Be my guest. Print them off for your astronomy club, turn it into a PDF and give it away from your site. Republish the guides on your own site. Whatever you like. All I ask is that you link back to Universe Today and the specific page, so people can find out where it came from.

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24 Responses

  1. jamieball says:

    This is awesome, except the first one I clicked on (M50) doesn’t appear to work 😛

  2. RapidEye says:

    Looks and works great!!!
    One quick suggestion: on each page, put a link to the previous and next M object so you can browse them in order without have to go back and forth to the overview page.
    Thanks for such a great resource!!!

  3. Navneeth says:

    Congratulations on the completion, Tammy! I have just one suggestion: a downloadable PDF document. 🙂

  4. Navneeth says:

    Congratulations on the completion, Tammy! I have just one suggestion/request: a downloadable PDF document. 🙂

  5. Jon Hanford says:

    Wow, Tammy, you’ve really outdone yourself. Fantastic. The few I peeked at were great. Can’t wait to read the full catalog. Congrats!

  6. The Meal says:

    Tammy is a modern day Robert Burnham!

  7. Brian Sheen says:

    Another super Tammy magnum opus!

    She correctly asks for a acknowledgement when it is copied into other formats.

    However the email does not give that information which should read “filed under astronomy 21st Jan 2010”

    No doubt I will be using it on a regular basis

  8. WoHu says:

    Excellent work, thanks a lot!

    There’s one small typo in M13’s description:
    “Hanging out in space at a distance of 25,100 light years, this 24 billion year old beauty is one of the most impressive globular clusters for the northern hemisphere.”

    I guess 24 billion years would make it a wee bit older than the universe.

  9. nikpawar says:

    Awesome compilation Tammy!
    The few I checked out worked brilliantly.

    As mentioned above, the downloadable pdf option would be very convenient as well as links to previous and next M objects on individual pages.

    Thanks for your efforts 🙂

  10. HelloBozos says:

    Great list…I just started my own Messier list too. It’s 1/2 way complete..Thanks for this guide Tammy, Way to Go!!!!

  11. gosh… i thank you all for such wonderful comments! i’ve corrected m13 and the “missing messier 50” is now in place.

    if everyone is interested, i will be very happy to turn this into a pdf document and inverting the star charts so they can be easily read in the field. i will also do a page with a listing of what messiers can be seen during what season, too. when it’s finished, i’ll give it to fraser so it can be downloaded and used freely.

    once done, i can convert it into a black and white book format (not as exciting as color, but far less expensive to produce) and offer it up for purchase with any proceeds to go to astronomy outreach. at the cost of today’s printer ink, you could get a bound volume for less than what it would take to “do it yourself” for just a few pages!

    i am so happy that everyone is enjoying it! it really means a lot to me that you do.

  12. Dark Gnat says:

    Great work!! Very informative, and well desined.

    Have you guys ever considered a UT wiki?

  13. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Just read the descriptions of the four Messier planetary nebula; M27, M57. M76 and M97, and am frankly quite disappointed. Sorry It read like a whole mishmash of unrelated ideas on the general nature of these kinds of objects

    For instance you flippantly say regarding M76; “So it’s bi-polar – just another crazy planetary nebula. But could it be blowing bubbles?”

    Eh? Bipolar planetary nebula (BPNe) are created by the outflow of material which has torn through the “poles” of the nebula shell (or bubble) It is believed that the bubble-like shells are not exactly the same thickness, and the UV energies emitted from the central star first break through at the poles creating the observed fluted structures. Variations in BPNe are probably caused by other effects, like rotation of the star, companion stars, magnetic fields, and changes in the rate and direction of the mass loss
    In fact, most planetary nebula are thought to go through bipolar features.
    Furthermore the quote “According to some researcher” (who?) after this has very little do with the orientation of the stated “bipolar wind-driven bubble” (Also in the quote the Greek letter is missing. Is this hydrogen line alpha or beta? Both are possible!)

    The whole statement here just makes no sense!

    [Also if this is an attempt at humour, it is fairly poor. Bipolar disorders does not generally infer people are “crazy”, and at best, all it does is label the atypical stigmatisation towards any with mental illnesses.]

    History for M76 here has too many errors;.

    I.e. Méchain 1780 observation actually saw “”…of very small stars”. He saw no “faint shell”, as your article eludes. Also
    Admiral Smyth’s assertion that Méchain saw it as nebulous is quite wrong. Most thought M76 contained “stars with nebulosity”.

    In fact, its true planetary nature was not actually confirmed until the deep imaging done by Heber Curtis in 1918. However, there is some contention to this claim, as Isaac Roberts in 1891 did suggest that M76 might be similar to the Ring Nebula (M57), being instead as seen from the side view.

    – As to the distances, I am perplexed with the “3.4 kly” (the distances should be expressed in parsecs or kiloparsecs mind you. I.e. 1.0 kpc.) This I assume is the average of the distance of four highly discordant values as quoted in Kohoutek’s “Catalogue of Galactic Planetary Nebulae.” (CGPN) (2001). However, modern values are more around 800 pc.

    – Also very confusing is the statement immediately written after “What You are Looking At”, where you say “Located some 1,700 and 15,000 light years away from Earth,” Do you mean that the different shells have different distances or is this the range of the available? The furthest distance ever stated in the literature is 1.55 kpc or 5600 light years).

    – The central star magnitude is stated in most sources as 15.9v (16.1b). The surface temperature is about twice the 60,000K you state.

    – As to the nebulosity’s size, you state the size is ” a little over 1 by a little over 11 light years” ? Eh? Few planetary nebula extend this far. Based on the projected separation, the size of the visible planetary is more like 0.2pc. (or 0.7 light years across) Even the faint shells are 1.0 pc or 1.5 pc. at best!

    – You say; “Very large telescopes will not only see double lobed structure, but the additional faint halo ring as well.” As far as I know, ever apertures as large 1.0m (36-inch), visually no one has ever seen this “halo ring.” From the dozen of sources I’ve read, no one has ever claimed this at all!

  14. HelloBozos says:

    Hon. Salacious B. Crumb as missed the most important word in this artical,Its even in the heading…

    ….Guide….

    It didn’t say Bible…8^)

  15. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    @HelloBozos
    I think you actually meant “MISguide”, don’t you think?

  16. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb? i think you are the most jealous and malicious person i know. quite frankly, if you can do it better yourself?

    do it.

  17. William928 says:

    Tammy,

    Don’t give old Crumb another thought. I haven’t had the opportunity to look at detail into what you’ve created here, but I’m sure it’s great. I always enjoy your articles on UT. Keep up the good work, and don’t let people like Crumb bother or discourage you. He obviously doesn’t have the talent and/or patience to present anything like this, so it’s easier for him to make unwarranted attacks on those that do. Keep looking up!

    Bill

  18. RascWeb42 says:

    Hi Tammy
    Great job on the Messier objects!
    I’m willing to help with converting this to another format if you need some assistance – I’ve already converted all your Messier pages to a “first draft” of a 27MB Word doc and a 26MB PDF file, correcting a few minor HTML code problems along the way. If you are interested, contact me via e-mail.
    Larry McNish, Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

  19. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Tammy here might like to read regarding the distance and sizes of planetary nebula, which has an open discussion on the problems in a historical perspective. This can be found at the ADS;
    Bensby, T.; Lundström, I. The Distance Scale of Planetary Nebula, A&A., 374, 599 (2001)

    The paper gives the various mathematical means of calculating these parameters.

    Note: On Page 610 gives a list of well known and best data on PNe, D (pc) being the distance and R (pc) mean radius of the PNe. None are above 1.0 pc. (3.2 ly.). The range of sizes clearly show that the sizes stated for M76 are quite unlikely.

    As to the whole collection of Messier objects written about, well most descriptions seem quite similar to other works on the Messier objects. Needless to say my point really was not aimed solely at how good or bad the descriptions are, but more towards how often poorly understood nature on planetary nebula and what many sources continue to quite wrongly quote.

    IMO all fatal flaws sometimes need to be corrected not perpetuated ad hoc. M76 is a classic historical example that has been pointed out not just by me.

    As for William928 comment;

    “He obviously doesn’t have the talent and/or patience to present anything like this, so it’s easier for him to make unwarranted attacks on those that do.”

    Actually not quite true, I recently wrote a detailed article on this very object a few months back, and as such, I do stand by my own research and knowledge. I have written extensively on planetary nebula for many years now.

  20. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Tammy Plotner said;

    Hon. Salacious B. Crumb? i think you are the most jealous and malicious person i know. quite frankly, if you can do it better yourself?
    do it.

    I am being neither jealous or malicious. All I have stated is some of the serious errors regarding planetary nebulae contained in one of four objects Actually, M76 I just have happen to have recently done some work on. (I’ve send you a earlier draft of this document via e-mail.) All I’ve done is as Frasier Cain said in the introduction to this article page

    If you’ve got any questions, comments or feedback, please let us know. I’m sure there are going to be some bugs in there.

    I’ve done that.

  21. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    After posting my issues with planetary nebulae in these articles, I remain more surprised with the deathly silence.

    It seems that Frasier Cain’s words about “feedback” are, frankly, empty rhetoric. Unless they are all full of praise and general positive platitudes, any contrary view must be suppressed or be ignored.

    I did a little further investigating into the sources of the values quoted in this M76 article. It is interesting that the original (unacknowledged) source of nearly all of the technical information on distance and sizes of M76 used by Tammy has been taken directly from Hartmut Frommert and Christine Kronberg site, specifically;
    Messier 76. Some of this same data is quoted also in Wikipedia article on M76.

    Clearly much written from this source is out of date (earlier than 1975) and is frankly quite wrong, I.e. The modern distance for M76 according to Philips, J., MNRAS., 361, 283 (2005) is 780 pc. (See Table 2.) Similar given distances in the literature goes back to about 1996.

    It is as I’ve already previously said here;

    Needless to say my point really was not aimed solely at how good or bad the descriptions are, but more towards how often poorly understood nature on planetary nebula and what many sources continue to quite wrongly quote.

    IMO all fatal flaws sometimes need to be corrected not perpetuated ad hoc. M76 is a classic historical example that has been pointed out not just by me.

  22. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Sorry for the unintended shouting. I forgot to close the bold setting.

  23. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    The Wikipedia information on M76 has been today properly updated and referenced.

    I have also formally approached Hartmut Frommert at the SEDS site, requesting that the information there also be updated and the incorrect information removed.

    As Tammy has already said;

    …quite frankly, if you can do it better yourself?
    do it.

    Well I have done so.

  24. Nereid2 says:

    2MASS has produced the 2MASSier (“2MASS Atlas Image Gallery: The Messier Catalog”):
    http://www.ipac.caltech.edu/2mass/gallery/messiercat.html

    Now 2MASS and POSS (Palomar Observatory Sky Survey) have comparable resolutions, cover the whole sky, and between them have produced images (data) in five bands (two in the visual, three in the near-IR).

    I’m wondering if there would be any interest in producing a poster – or series of posters – of all the Messier objects, with a uniform scale? For example, this may be a terrific resource for those who teach astronomy (there sooo much you can show, in a visually stunning way, using uniform 5-band images of M objects!).

    It would be a project for someone who is comfortable with astronomical data (FITS files, for example, and how to make queries of databases), but even a modest desktop PC should have more than enough oomph to do it.

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