The Messier objects are a set of over 100 astronomical objects first listed by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1771. Messier was a comethunter, and was frustrated by objects which resembled but were not comets, so he compiled a list of them, in collaboration with his assistantPierre Méchain, to avoid wasting time on them. The number of objects in the catalog reached 103 during his lifetime but a few more thought to have been observed by Messier have been added by other astronomers over the years.

A similar list had been published in 1654 by Giovanni Hodierna, but had no impact and was probably not known to Messier.

Lists and editions

The first edition covered 45 objects numbered M1 to M45. The total list published by Messier finally contained 103 objects, but the list “got an independent life” by successive additions by other astronomers, motivating the additions by side notes in Messier’s and Mechain’s texts indicating that either of them knew of the objects. The first such addition came from Nicolas Camille Flammarion in 1921, who added Messier 104 after finding Messier’s side note in his 1781 edition exemplar of the catalogue. M105 to M107 were added by Helen Sawyer Hogg in 1947, M108 and M109 byOwen Gingerich in 1960, and M110 by Kenneth Glyn Jones in 1967.[4] M102 was observed by Méchain, who communicated his notes to Messier. Later, it was admitted by Méchain himself that this object does not exist, and it was simply a re-observation of M101. Some sources mention the galaxy NGC 5866 as an identification for M102.

Messier’s final catalogue was included in the Connaissance des Temps for 1784 (published in 1781). These objects are still known by their “Messier number” from this list.

Messier lived and did his astronomical work at the Hôtel de Cluny (now the Musée national du Moyen Âge), in France. The list he compiled contains only objects found in the sky area he could observe: from the north celestial pole to a celestial latitude of about −35.7°. Objects visible only from the southern hemisphere, such as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, were not observed or listed.


The Messier catalogue comprises nearly all the most spectacular examples of the five types of deep sky object – diffuse nebulae, planetary nebulae,open clusters, globular clusters and galaxies – visible from European latitudes. Furthermore, almost all of the Messier objects are among the closest to our planet in their respective classes, which makes them heavily studied with professional class instruments that today can resolve very small and visually spectacular details in them. A summary of the astrophysics of each Messier object can be found in the Concise Catalog of Deep-sky Objects.

Since these objects could be observed visually with the relatively small-aperture refracting telescope (approximately 100 mm, or four inches) used by Messier to study the sky, they are among the brightest and therefore most attractive astronomical objects (popularly called “deep sky objects”) observable from Earth, and are a popular targets for visual study and photography available to modern amateur astronomers using larger aperture equipment. In early spring, astronomers sometimes gather for “Messier marathons”, when all of the objects can be viewed over a single night.

Messier objects

Open cluster       Globular cluster       Nebula       Planetary nebula       Supernova remnant       Galaxy       Other

Messier number NGC/IC Number Common name Picture Object type Distance (kly) Constellation Apparent magnitude
M1 NGC 1952 Crab Nebula Crab Nebula.jpg Supernova remnant 4.9-8.1 Taurus 8.4
M2 NGC 7089 Messier 2 Hubble WikiSky.jpg Cluster, globular 33 Aquarius 6.3
M3 NGC 5272 M3LRGB 891x674.jpg Cluster, globular 33.9 Canes Venatici 6.2
M4 NGC 6121 Messier 4 Hubble WikiSky.jpg Cluster, globular 7.2 Scorpius 5.9
M5 NGC 5904 Messier 5 Hubble WikiSky.jpg Cluster, globular 24.5 Serpens 6.7
M6 NGC 6405 Butterfly Cluster M6a.jpg Cluster, open 1.6 Scorpius 4.2
M7 NGC 6475 Ptolemy Cluster Open-cluster-Messier-7.jpeg Cluster, open 0.65-1.31 Scorpius 3.3
M8 NGC 6523 Lagoon Nebula LagoonHunterWilson.jpg Nebula with cluster 4.1 Sagittarius 6.0
M9 NGC 6333 Messier object 009.jpg Cluster, globular 25.8 Ophiuchus 8.4
M10 NGC 6254 Messier 10 Hubble WikiSky.jpg Cluster, globular 14.3 Ophiuchus 6.4
M11 NGC 6705 Wild Duck Cluster Messier11.jpg Cluster, open 6.2 Scutum 6.3
M12 NGC 6218 M12 Hubble.jpg Cluster, globular 15.7 Ophiuchus 7.7
M13 NGC 6205 Great Globular Cluster in Hercules Messier 13 Hubble WikiSky.jpg Cluster, globular 22.2 Hercules 5.8
M14 NGC 6402 Messier object 014.jpg Cluster, globular 30.3 Ophiuchus 8.3
M15 NGC 7078 Messier 15 Hubble WikiSky.jpg Cluster, globular 33 Pegasus 6.2
M16 NGC 6611 Eagle Nebula Stellar spire eagle nebula.jpg Nebula, H II regionwith cluster 7 Serpens 6.0
M17 NGC 6618 Omega, Swan, Horseshoe, or Lobster Nebula Messier 17.jpg Nebula, H II regionwith cluster 5-6 Sagittarius 6.0
M18 NGC 6613 Messier18.jpg Cluster, open 4.9 Sagittarius 7.5
M19 NGC 6273 Messier object 019.jpg Cluster, globular 28.7 Ophiuchus 7.5
M20 NGC 6514 Trifid Nebula Trifid.nebula.arp.750pix.jpg Nebula, H II regionwith cluster 5.2 Sagittarius 6.3
M21 NGC 6531 Messier object 021.jpg Cluster, open 4.25 Sagittarius 6.5
M22 NGC 6656 Sagittarius Cluster Messier object 022.jpg Cluster, globular 9.6-11.6 Sagittarius 5.1
M23 NGC 6494 Messier object 023.jpg Cluster, open 2.15 Sagittarius 6.9
M24 IC 4715 Sagittarius Star Cloud Messier 024 2MASS.jpg Milky Way star cloud ~10 Sagittarius 4.6
M25 IC 4725 Messier object 025.jpg Cluster, open 2.0 Sagittarius 4.6
M26 NGC 6694 Messier object 026.jpg Cluster, open 5.0 Scutum 8.0
M27 NGC 6853 Dumbbell Nebula Messier27.jpg Nebula, planetary 1.148-1.52 Vulpecula 7.5
M28 NGC 6626 Messier28.jpg Cluster, globular 17.9 Sagittarius 7.7
M29 NGC 6913 Messier object 029.jpg Cluster, open 7.2 Cygnus 7.1
M30 NGC 7099 Messier object 030.jpg Cluster, globular 27.8-31 Capricornus 7.7
M31 NGC 224 Andromeda Galaxy Andromeda galaxy.jpg Galaxy, spiral 2,430-2,650 Andromeda 3.4
M32 NGC 221 M32 Lanoue.png Galaxy, dwarf elliptical 2,410-2,570 Andromeda 8.1
M33 NGC 598 Triangulum Galaxy M33.jpg Galaxy, spiral 2,380-3,070 Triangulum 5.7
M34 NGC 1039 M34 2mass atlas.jpg Cluster, open 1.5 Perseus 5.5
M35 NGC 2168 M35atlas.jpg Cluster, open 2.8 Gemini 5.3
M36 NGC 1960 M36a.jpg Cluster, open 4.1 Auriga 6.3
M37 NGC 2099 M37a.jpg Cluster, open 4.511 Auriga 6.2
M38 NGC 1912 Messier object 038.jpg Cluster, open 4.2 Auriga 7.4
M39 NGC 7092 Messier object 039.jpg Cluster, open 0.8244 Cygnus 5.5
M40 Winnecke 4 Messier object 40.jpg Double star WNC4 0.51 Ursa Major 9.7
M41 NGC 2287 Messier 041 2MASS.jpg Cluster, open 2.3 Canis Major 4.5
M42 NGC 1976 Orion Nebula Orion Nebula - Hubble 2006 mosaic 18000.jpg Nebula, H II region 1.324-1.364 Orion 4.0
M43 NGC 1982 De Mairan’s Nebula Messier object 043.jpg Nebula, H II region
(part of the Orion Nebula)
1.6 Orion 9.0
M44 NGC 2632 Beehive Cluster Messier 044 2MASS.jpg Cluster, open 0.577 Cancer 3.7
M45 Pleiades Bob Star - M45 Carranza Field (by).jpg Cluster, open 0.39-0.46 Taurus 1.6
M46 NGC 2437 M46a.jpg Cluster, open 5.4 Puppis 6.1
M47 NGC 2422 M47a.jpg Cluster, open 1.6 Puppis 4.2
M48 NGC 2548 M48a.jpg Cluster, open 1.5 Hydra 5.5
M49 NGC 4472 Messier 49 Hubble WikiSky.jpg Galaxy, elliptical 53,600-58,200 Virgo 9.4
M50 NGC 2323 M50a.jpg Cluster, open 3.2 Monoceros 5.9
M51 NGC 5194, NGC 5195 Whirlpool Galaxy Whirlpool (M51).jpg Galaxy, spiral 19,000-27,000 Canes Venatici 8.4
M52 NGC 7654 M52atlas.jpg Cluster, open 5.0 Cassiopeia 5.0
M53 NGC 5024 Globular Cluster M53.jpg Cluster, globular 58 Coma Berenices 8.3
M54 NGC 6715 Messier54.jpg Cluster, globular 87.4 Sagittarius 8.4
M55 NGC 6809 Messier55.jpg Cluster, globular 17.6 Sagittarius 7.4
M56 NGC 6779 M56-LRGB.jpg Cluster, globular 32.9 Lyra 8.3
M57 NGC 6720 Ring Nebula Ring Nebula.jpg Nebula, planetary 1.6-3.8 Lyra 8.8
M58 NGC 4579 M58s.jpg Galaxy, barred spiral ~63,000 Virgo 10.5
M59 NGC 4621 Messier59.jpg Galaxy, elliptical 55,000-65,000 Virgo 10.6
M60 NGC 4649 Messier object 060.jpg Galaxy, elliptical 51,000-59,000 Virgo 9.8
M61 NGC 4303 Messier object 061.jpg Galaxy, spiral 50.2-54.6 Virgo 10.2
M62 NGC 6266 Messier object 062.jpg Cluster, globular 22.2 Ophiuchus 7.4
M63 NGC 5055 Sunflower Galaxy Messier 63 GALEX WikiSky.jpg Galaxy, spiral 37,000 Canes Venatici 9.3
M64 NGC 4826 Black Eye Galaxy Blackeyegalaxy.jpg Galaxy, spiral 22,000-26,000 Coma Berenices 9.4
M65 NGC 3623 Leo Triplet M65.jpg Galaxy, barred spiral 41,000-42,000 Leo 10.3
M66 NGC 3627 Leo Triplet Sig05-016.jpg Galaxy, barred spiral 31,000-41,000 Leo 8.9
M67 NGC 2682 Messier object 067.jpg Cluster, open 2.61-2.93 Cancer 6.1
M68 NGC 4590 Messier object 068.jpg Cluster, globular 33.6 Hydra 9.7
M69 NGC 6637 Messier object 069.jpg Cluster, globular 29.7 Sagittarius 8.3
M70 NGC 6681 Messier70.jpg Cluster, globular 29.4 Sagittarius 9.1
M71 NGC 6838 Messier71.jpg Cluster, globular 13.0 Sagitta 6.1
M72 NGC 6981 Messier72.jpg Cluster, globular 53.40-55.74 Aquarius 9.4
M73 NGC 6994 Messier 073 2MASS.jpg Asterism ~2.5 Aquarius 9.0
M74 NGC 628 Messier 74 by HST.jpg Galaxy, spiral 24,000-36,000 Pisces 10.0
M75 NGC 6864 Messier75.jpg Cluster, globular 67.5 Sagittarius 9.2
M76 NGC 650, NGC 651 Little Dumbbell Nebula M76-RL5-DDmin-Gamma-LRGB 883x628.jpg Nebula, planetary 2.5 Perseus 10.1
M77 NGC 1068 Cetus A NGC1068-hst-R658GB814.jpg Galaxy, spiral 47,000 Cetus 9.6
M78 NGC 2068 Messier 78.jpg Nebula, diffuse 1.6 Orion 8.3
M79 NGC 1904 M79a.jpg Cluster, globular 41 Lepus 8.6
M80 NGC 6093 A Swarm of Ancient Stars - GPN-2000-000930.jpg Cluster, globular 32.6 Scorpius 7.9
M81 NGC 3031 Bode’s Galaxy Sig07-009.jpg Galaxy, spiral 11,400-12,200 Ursa Major 6.9
M82 NGC 3034 Cigar Galaxy Messier82.jpg Galaxy, starburst 10,700-12,300 Ursa Major 8.4
M83 NGC 5236 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy M83g.jpg Galaxy, barred spiral 14,700 Hydra 7.5
M84 NGC 4374 Messier 84 nucleus Hubble.jpg Galaxy, lenticular 57,000-63,000 Virgo 10.1
M85 NGC 4382 Messier 85 Hubble WikiSky.jpg Galaxy, lenticular 56,000-64,000 Coma Berenices 10.0
M86 NGC 4406 Messier 86 Hubble WikiSky.jpg Galaxy, lenticular 49,000-55,000 Virgo 9.8
M87 NGC 4486 Virgo A M87 jet.jpg Galaxy, elliptical 51,870-55,130 Virgo 9.6
M88 NGC 4501 Messier object 088.jpg Galaxy, spiral 39,000-56,000 Coma Berenices 10.4
M89 NGC 4552 Messier object 089.jpg Galaxy, elliptical 47,000-53,000 Virgo 10.7
M90 NGC 4569 Messier object 090.jpg Galaxy, spiral 55,900-61,500 Virgo 10.3
M91 NGC 4548 Messier91.jpg Galaxy, barred spiral 47,000-79,000 Coma Berenices 11.0
M92 NGC 6341 Globular Cluster M92.JPG Cluster, globular 26.7 Hercules 6.3
M93 NGC 2447 Messier object 093.jpg Cluster, open 3.6 Puppis 6.0
M94 NGC 4736 Messier object 094.jpg Galaxy, spiral 14,700-17,300 Canes Venatici 9.0
M95 NGC 3351 Messier95 spitzer.jpg Galaxy, barred spiral 31,200-34,000 Leo 11.4
M96 NGC 3368 Messier object 096.jpg Galaxy, spiral 28,000-34,000 Leo 10.1
M97 NGC 3587 Owl Nebula M97 FTN.jpg Nebula, planetary 2.03 Ursa Major 9.9
M98 NGC 4192 M-98.jpg Galaxy, spiral 44,400 Coma Berenices 11.0
M99 NGC 4254 M99.jpg Galaxy, spiral 44,700-55,700 Coma Berenices 10.4
M100 NGC 4321 Spiral Galaxy M100.jpg Galaxy, spiral 55,000 Coma Berenices 10.1
M101 NGC 5457 Pinwheel Galaxy M101 hires STScI-PRC2006-10a.jpg Galaxy, spiral 19,100-22,400 Ursa Major 7.9
M102 (Not conclusively identified)
M103 NGC 581 Messier object 103.jpg Cluster, open 10 Cassiopeia 7.4
M104 NGC 4594 Sombrero Galaxy M104 ngc4594 sombrero galaxy hi-res.jpg Galaxy, spiral 28,700-30,900 Virgo 9.0
M105 NGC 3379 Messier object 105.jpg Galaxy, elliptical 30,400-33,600 Leo 10.2
M106 NGC 4258 Messier 106 by Spitzer.jpg Galaxy, spiral 22,200-25,200 Canes Venatici 9.1
M107 NGC 6171 Messier object 107.jpg Cluster, globular 20.9 Ophiuchus 8.9
M108 NGC 3556 Messier 108 Hubble WikiSky.jpg Galaxy, barred spiral 46,000 Ursa Major 10.7
M109 NGC 3992 Messier object 109.jpg Galaxy, barred spiral 59,500-107,500 Ursa Major 10.6
M110 NGC 205 Messier object 110.jpg Galaxy, dwarf elliptical 2,600-2,780 Andromeda 9.0
Messier number NGC Number Common name Picture Object type Distance (kly) Constellation Apparent magnitude

Star chart of Messier objects

Source: Wikipedia

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By Trinh Manh Do

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