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Mr. Charles Messier: 1730-1817

Updated: May 5

Mr. Charles Messier was born on 26th June 1730 in Badonviller, France. His interest in astronomy was revived by the appearance of the C/1743 comet also called Comet de Cheseaux and by an annular solar eclipse which was visible from his hometown on 25th July 1748. His dad died in 1741, 6 of his brothers and sisters died while young.

In 1751, Mr. Messier entered the employ of Mr. Joseph Nicolas Delisle the astronomer of the French Navy, who instructed him to keep careful records of his observations. Messier's first recorded observation was of the Mercury transit of 6 May 1753, followed by his observations journals at Cluny Hotel and the French Navy observatories.

In 1764, Messier was made a member of the Royal Society 1769, he was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and on 30 June 1770, he was elected to the French Academy of Sciences.

He discovered 13 comets.

  • C/1760 B1

  • C/1763 S1

  • C/1766 E1

  • C/1764 A1

  • C/1769 P1

  • D/1770 L1

  • C/1771 G1

  • C/1773 T1

  • C/1780 U2

  • C/1788 W1

  • C/1793 S2

  • C/1798 G1

  • C/1785 A1

Mr. Messier did his observing with a 100 mm (four-inch) refracting telescope from Hôtel de Cluny, in downtown Paris, France. The list he compiled only contains objects found in the area of the sky he could observe, from the north celestial pole to a declination of about −35.7°. They are not organized scientifically by object type, or by location.

The first version of Messier's catalog had 45 objects and was published in 1774 in the journal of the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. In addition to his own discoveries, this version included objects previously observed by other astronomers, with only 17 of the 45 objects being discovered by Messier himself. By 1780 the catalog had increased to 80 objects.

The final version of the catalogue was published in 1781, in the 1784 issue of Connaissance des Temps. The final list of Messier objects had grown to 103. On several occasions between the 1921 and 1966 catalog, astronomers and historians discovered evidence of another seven objects that were observed either by Messier or by Méchain, shortly after the final version was published. These seven objects, M-104 through M-110, are accepted by astronomers as "official" Messier objects.

The objects' Messier designations, from M-1 to M-110, are still used by professional amateur astronomers today and their brightness makes them popular objects in the amateur astronomical community.

The lunar crater and the asteroid 7359 were named in his honor.

He is one of the most important personalities in the field of astronomy. His discoveries have led us to discover a lot of new things and solve some of the mysteries of the universe.

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