Birthday of Charles Messier

French astronomer Charles Messier was born on June 26, 1730. Inspired by childhood sightings of comets and a solar eclipse visible from his home town of Badonvillier, he became an astronomer and comet hunter who kept careful records of his observations.

While hunting for comets in the skies above France, he made a now famous list of the positions of about 100 fuzzy, diffuse looking objects which appeared at fixed positions in the sky. Although these objects looked like comets, Messier knew that since they did not move with respect to the background stars they could not be the comets he was searching for.

These objects are now well known to modern astronomers to be among the brightest and most striking nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies. Objects on Messier’s list are still referred to by their “Messier number.” The first object in his catalog, N1 – also known as the Crab Nebula, was recorded during his search for the return of Halley’s comet in 1758. Messier died in his home in Paris in 1817.

This large mosaic of the Crab Nebula was assembled from 24 individual exposures captured by Hubble over three months. The colors in this image do not match exactly what we would see with our eyes but yield insight into the composition of this spectacular stellar corpse. The orange filaments are the tattered remains of the star and consist mostly of hydrogen. The blue in the filaments in the outer part of the nebula represents neutral oxygen. Green is singly ionized sulfur, and red indicates doubly ionized oxygen. These elements were expelled during the supernova explosion.
See more on the NASA website.

Flag Counter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.