Messier Catalog Photo Gallery

The photo gallery below is a project to image each of the 110 deep sky objects in the Messier Catalog. Charles Messier was an 18th-century French astronomer whose primary goal was to discover new comets. In the process of his searches using relatively small telescopes, Messier occassionally found comet-like object that were not comets. They appeared to be permanent parts of the night sky (like the stars), but he was unaware of the true nature of most of them. To avoid confusion in future comet searches, Messier compiled a catalog of these non-cometary objects.

Today, we recognize the Messier Catalog to consist of a collection of deep sky objects that all lie far beyond the Solar System. Well over 1/3 of them lie outside our own Milky Way Galaxy. The catalog contains 26 open clusters, 29 globular clusters, 7 diffuse nebulae, 4 planetary nebulae, and 40 galaxies (24 spiral, 8 elliptical, 4 barred, and 4 lenticular). There are several one-of-a-kind objects in the catalog including 1 supernova remnant, 1 Milky Way patch, 1 double star, and 1 asterism.

In March 2011, I began a project to image every object in the Messier Catalog from Bifrost Observatory. Although I had already photographed several of the brightest Messier objects, I realized that tackling the entire catalog would be a great way to hone my imaging skills while becoming intimately familiar with each of these famous objects. And it would be great fun!

The Takahashi Epsilon 180 Hyperbolic Astrograph and a Canon EOS 550D / Rebel T2i (modified with a Baader UV/IR filter) were chosen for the project. This combination offers a wide field of view (1.7° x 2.65°) with excellent resolution (1.8 arc-sec per pixel). The resulting images show each each deep sky object in its surrounding environment and at a fixed image scale. This permits direct comparison of the relative sizes of any object in the catalog.

This page will be updated periodically until the entire Messier Catalog has been imaged.

  	

Update: 2011 August - A major fire in the nearby Chiricahua Mountains began on May 8 and filled the sky with varying amounts of smoke and falling ash for some six weeks. This made astrophotography impossible. When the fire was finally under control (late June), the sky then became cloudy with the start of summer monsoon season. As a result, I managed just one night of imaging between May 8 and mid-August. The Messier objects M16, M20, M21, M27, M29, M56, M57 and M71 were imaged on August 2.

  	

Update: 2011 November - After spending several months on the East Coast, I returned to Arizona in mid-October to resume work on imaging the Messier catalog. In the span of several weeks, I imaged nearly 30 objects and have now captured 107 out of 110 Messier objects. The remaining three targets (M5, M101 and M102) are spring/summer objects so I will have to wait until then to complete this catalog.

  	

Update: 2012 January 29 - The final three objects in Messier's catalog (M5, M101 and M102) were imaged in the early hours this morning and the project is now complete! The first of Messier's deep sky objects was imaged just a year earlier on Jan. 23, 2011. To photograph the entire catalog required 24 nights spread over a year. The most productive night occurred on Oct. 21 when 11 separate objects were imaged.

This was an enjoyable project that I recommend to others. I've benefited greatly from a familiarization with Messier's catalog and the distribution of some of the most interesting deep sky objects in the sky. I've also received a lot of practical experience in observatory operation, autoguiding, image acquisition and image processing. After a short break I'm ready to tackle the Caldwell Catalog!

Click on each thumbnail to see a larger image.




M1-01
M1
Crab Nebula
supernova remnant

M2-01
M2

globular cluster

M3-01
M3

globular cluster

M4-01
M4

globular cluster

M5-01
M5

globular cluster

M6-01
M6
Butterfly Cluster
open cluster

M7-01
M7
Ptolemy Cluster
open cluster

M8-01
M8
Lagoon Nebula
cluster with nebula

M9-01
M9

globular cluster

M10-01
M10

globular cluster

M11-01
M11
Wild Duck Cluster
open cluster

M12-01
M12

globular cluster

M13-01
M13
Hercules Globular
globular cluster

M14-01
M14

globular cluster

M15-01
M15
Great Pegasus Cluster
globular cluster

M16-01
M16
Eagle Nebula
cluster & H II region

M17-01
M17
Omega Nebula
cluster & H II region

M18-01
M18

open cluster

M19-01
M19

globular cluster

M20-01
M20
Trifid Nebula
cluster & H II region

M21-01
M21

open cluster

M22-01
M22
Sagittarius Cluster
globular cluster

M23-01
M23

open cluster

M24-01
M24
Sagittarius Star Cloud
Milky Way star cloud

M25-01
M25

open cluster

M26-01
M26

open cluster

M27-01
M27
Dumbbell Nebula
planetary nebula

M28-01
M28

globular cluster

M29-01
M29

open cluster

M30-01
M30

globular cluster

M31-01
M31
Andromeda Galaxy
spiral galaxy

M32-01
M32

dwarf elliptical galaxy

M33-01
M33
Triangulum Galaxy
spiral galaxy

M34-01
M34

open cluster

M35-01
M35

open cluster

M36-01
M36

open cluster

M37-01
M37

open cluster

M38-01
M38

open cluster

M39-01
M39

open cluster

M40-01
M40
Winnecke 4
double star

M41-01
M41

open cluster

M42-01
M42
Great Orion Nebula
H II region

M43-01
M43
De Mairan's Nebula
H II region

M44-01
M44
Beehive Cluster
open cluster

M45-01
M45
Pleiades
open cluster

M46-01
M46

open cluster

M47-01
M47

open cluster

M48-01
M48

open cluster

M49-01
M49

elliptical galaxy

M50-01
M50

open cluster

M51-02
M51
Whirlpool Galaxy
spiral galaxy

M52-01
M52

open cluster

M53-01
M53

globular cluster

M54-01
M54

globular cluster

M55-01
M55

globular cluster

M56-01
M56

globular cluster

M57-01
M57
Ring Nebula
planetary nebula

M58-01
M58

barred spiral galaxy

M59-01
M59

elliptical galaxy

M60-01
M60

elliptical galaxy

M61-01
M61

spiral galaxy

M62-01
M62

globular cluster

M63-01
M63
Sunflower Galaxy
spiral galaxy

M64-01
M64
Black Eye Galaxy
spiral galaxy

M65-01
M65

spiral galaxy

M66-01
M66

spiral galaxy

M67-01
M67

open cluster

M68-01
M68

globular cluster

M69-01
M69

globular cluster

M70-01
M70

globular cluster

M71-01
M71

globular cluster

M72-01
M72

globular cluster

M73-01
M73

asterism

M74-01
M74

spiral galaxy

M75-01
M75

globular cluster

M76-01
M76
Little Dumbbell Nebula
planetary nebula

M77-01
M77

spiral galaxy

M78-01
M78

diffuse nebula

M79-01
M79

globular cluster

M80-01
M80

globular cluster

M81-01
M81
Bode's Galaxy
spiral galaxy

M82-01
M82
Cigar Galaxy
starburst galaxy

M83-01
M83
Southern Pinwheel
spiral galaxy

M84-01
M84

lenticular galaxy

M85-01
M85

lenticular galaxy

M86-01
M86

lenticular galaxy

M87-01
M87
Virgo A
elliptical galaxy

M88-01
M88

spiral galaxy

M89-01
M89

elliptical galaxy

M90-01
M90

spiral galaxy

M91-01
M91

barred spiral galaxy

M92-01
M92

globular cluster

M93-01
M93

open cluster

M94-01
M94

spiral galaxy

M95-01
M95

barred spiral galaxy

M96-01
M96

spiral galaxy

M97-01
M97
Owl Nebula
planetary nebula

M98-01
M98

spiral galaxy

M99-01
M99

spiral galaxy

M100-01
M100

spiral galaxy

M101-01
M101
Pinwheel Galaxy
spiral galaxy

M102-01
M102
Spindle Galaxy
lenticular galaxy

M103-01
M103

open cluster

M104-01
M104
Sombrero Galaxy
spiral galaxy

M105-01
M105

elliptical galaxy

M106-01
M106

spiral galaxy

M107-01
M107

globular cluster

M108-01
M108

spiral galaxy

M109-01
M109

barred spiral galaxy

M110-01
M110

dwarf elliptical galaxy



References






AstroPixels Links

| Open Clusters | Globular Clusters | Diffuse Nebulae | Planetary Nebulae | Supernovae | Galaxies |
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Messier Catalog Photo Gallery | 
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Caldwell Catalog | 
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