Introduction to Charles Messier's Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters

[m-colo.jpg] Charles Messier provided the following introduction to his Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters as it was published in the Connoissance des Temps:

Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters.

Observed at Paris by M. Messier.
At the Observatory of the Marine.
Hotel de Cluny. Rue de Mathurins.

M. Messier has observed with the utmost care, the Nebulae and star clusters which one can detect over the horizon of Paris; he has determined their Right Ascension and Declination and given their diameters, together with circumstantial details for each one: a work which was missing in astronomy.

He also gives details to the searches he has made for those other nebulae which other astronomers have discovered but which he has looked for without success.

The catalog of nebulae and star clusters of M. Messier was included in the volume of the Academy of Sciences for the year 1771, page 435. He reported at the end of his Memoir, a drawing outlined with the greatest care, of the fine nebula in the sword of Orion with the stars it contains. This drawing will be of help to recognize it again, provided that it is not subject to change with time. If one compares the present drawing with those of Ms. Huygens, Picard, de Mairan and Le Gentil, one is astonished to find such a change in it that, considering its shape alone, one would have difficulty to recognise it as the same nebula. M. Le Gentil's drawing can be seen in the volume of the Academy for 1759, page 470, plate XXI.

To the catalog printed by M. Messier, which we give here, we have also reported a large number of nebulae and star clusters which he has discovered since the printing of his Memoir, and which he communicated to us.

With the positions of the nebulae, M. Messier reports the numbers which are the same on the following pages, where the details of each of the observed nebulae are given.

Hartmut Frommert
Christine Kronberg

[SEDS] [MAA] [Home] [M History Home] [Indexes]

Last Modification: February 7, 1998