The messier objects as a tool in teaching astronomy


The French astronomer Charles Messier (1730- 1817) compiled a catalogue [1] of astronomical objects which reached109 innumber after additions by later astronomers were added. The catalogue contains galaxies, emission nebulae, a supernova remnant, a double star, globular clusters, open clusters, an asterism, a star cloud, and planetary nebulae. While the objective of Messier in compiling the catalogue was to guide comet hunters not to be confused by his objects which he thought looked like comets [2], the Messier Catalogue as it later became known became a standard guide to astronomers for a study of the sky’s “greatest hits” or the best samples of objects which can be observed and studied. This paper explores the value of the Messier Catalogue in the teaching of Astronomy and Earth Science. The range of objects is wide and contains some of the best examples of their type. The teaching method I propose is the actual observations of the objects through a telescope, with the corresponding explanation. Some principles which will be covered through this process are stellar evolution from the birth and death of stars, galaxy types, formation of galaxies, galactic interactions, life in the Universe, cosmology, and our place in the Universe.

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Torres, J. (2013) The messier objects as a tool in teaching astronomy. Natural Science, 5, 321-325. doi: 10.4236/ns.2013.53044.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] O’ Meara, S.J. (1998) The messier objects. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
[2] Gaherty, G. (2012) Starry night for planning.
[3] Ridpath, I (1997) Oxford dictionary of astronomy. Oxford University Press, Cambridge.
[4] Murdun, P. and Penston, M. (2004) Encyclopedia of astronomy. Firefly Books Ltd., Richmond Hill.
[5] Gundy, C. (2011) NASA’s Hubble finds rare “blue stragglers’ stars in Milky Way’s hub”.
[6] Perkins, C. (2012) What is dark matter?
[7] Ferguson, H. (1994) Dwarf elliptical galaxies.
[8] Journey through the Galaxy (2006) Star Clusters.
[9] Tyler, P. (2003) Supernova.

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