Once upon a time I taught a series of classes on Astronomy, or more accurately, the “History of Astronomy.” It was lots of fun, and as with so many of my classes, I learned at least as much as my students, probably more! (And, of course, as a writer, I put what I learned into several different learning packages on CurrClick and on Amazon.)
Along the way to learning so much about astronomers and astronomy, I kept running across references to Messier Objects, or the not so occasional references to numbers from the Messier Catalog (currently M1 through M110).
So it was fun when we finally studied Charles Messier, the French astronomer and comet hunter, who started the whole cataloging system in the eighteenth century. Messier’s Catalog was designed to help himself and other comet hunters distinguish the comets they were searching for from the non-comet objects they were also encountering in the heavens.
And, now, courteous of NASA, we can all enjoy bright and colorful views of many of the objects from Messier’s Catalog (as well as other galaxies and nebulae that Messier didn’t catalog)! NASA describes nebulae as “enormous clouds of dust and gas occupying the space between the stars.” Most of the pictures here were taken by the Hubble Space Telescope or the Spitzer Space Telescope. (You can see more of these great photos at their new website – images.nasa.gov/