Scientists » Astronomers » CHARLES MESSIER
|Full name||: Charles Messier|
|Alias||: Charles Messier|
|Animals||: The Dog|
|Father||: Nicolas Messier|
|Mother||: Francoise Grandblaise|
|Wife||: Marie-Francoise de Vermauchampt|
|Children||: Antoine-Charles Messier|
In the eighteenth century, when the astronomers of France and other parts of the world were engrossed in making new discoveries about the cosmos, Charles Messier was among those few who shined out for their noteworthy work. The sky had always intrigued Messier, ever since he was a child. He became popular after the discovery of some deep-sky objects, which gave a considerable lead to the astronomers of his time and later. For the astronomers of his time, the unidentified and hazy objects had always been perplexing. Messier made an attempt to identify these objects during his research on comets, which were his prime interest. Frustrated by those non-comet objects which had obstructed in his research of comets, he started to make a list of them. His findings, other than comets and planets, turned to a great discovery and were named “Messier Objects”. He discovered 104 objects, involving nebulae (any unclear bright area in the night sky) and star clusters (groups of stars). His hunt for comets was also fruitful, discovering 13 of them.
The Messier family moved to Senones in 1751, as the Badonviller went under the jurisdiction of France and Hyacinthe Messier, Charles Messier’s eldest brother, sought to remain loyal to the Princes of Salm. It was time for Messier to search for a job as he was 21 years old. He was offered two lucrative jobs by the family friend the Abbé Thélosen, one as the custodian of a Palace in Paris and the other with an astronomer, in Paris, of which Messier selected the latter.
On September 23, 1751, Messier left for Paris, where he met Joseph Nicolas Delisle, astronomer of the French Navy. Messier chose to work with him as a calligrapher. Nicolas Delisle and his wife were childless. The couple liked Messier and provided him with a new house near the Royal College of France. Messier’ first assignment was to copy the large map of China. Apart from the normal job, Messier also was also introduced to Delisle’s laboratory and was also instructed on how to use them. The first observation recorded by Messier was the transit of Mercury on May 6, 1753. Messier received lessons on fundamental astronomy from Delisle. He explained the importance of determining the exact positions of the observations. This helped Messier later, while making his catalog. He was appointed as a Depot Clerk of the Navy in 1754.
Messier Messier was born in a wealthy family in the small town of Badonviller, Lorraine, France, on June 26, 1730. He was tenth child of twelve children born to Nicolas Messier who father served in the administration of the Principality of Salm, and Francoise b. Grandblaise. Badonviller, was a part of the Principality of Salm during that time. In 1741, when Messier was just 11 years old, his father died unexpectedly. The responsibility of the family fell on the shoulders of his eldest brother Hyacinthe, who was then 24 years old.
Messier was curious about astronomy from very early ages that he used to observe the night sky with great passion. He loved to watch the stars in the night sky and always wondered about their existence. The partial solar eclipse which was visible in his hometown on July 25, 1748, motivated him. Even before the solar eclipse, in 1744, Messier witnessed the great six-tailed comet, which intensified his passion for astronomy.
Messier Messier died on April 12, 1817, due to a stroke. He was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, on April 14. The catalogue containing the “Messier objects”, framed by Messier is still referred by professional and amateur astronomers.
Messier was successful in discovering 13 comets in his lifetime. Below is the list of those comets:
C/1760 B1 (Messier)
C/1763 S1 (Messier)
C/1764 A1 (Messier)
C/1766 E1 (Messier)
C/1769 P1 (Messier)
D/1770 L1 (Lexell)
C/1771 G1 (Messier)
C/1773 T1 (Messier)
C/1780 U2 (Messier)
C/1788 W1 (Messier)
C/1793 S2 (Messier)
C/1798 G1 (Messier)
C/1785 A1 (Messier-Mechain)
The catalogue published in 1781, was Messier’s most important contribution to astronomy, which immortalized him.
Messier started to pursue his search for comets in 1757. It was in the same year he recorded the observation of the “M32”, a small and bright companion of the great Andromeda Galaxy. According to the scientific assumption, the much awaited Halley’s Comet was expected to reappear in 1758. In fact, Delisle did his own calculations on the same, on which Messier drew a clear sheet on the star path. Due to the miscalculation of Delisle, Messier searched at wrong positions and consequently, could not find the Halley’s Comet. However, he discovered another comet on August 14, 1758, which was already found by De la Nux the same year in the month of May. While continuing his search for the comets, he came across a comet-like object in Taurus. The patch or object was immovable and turned to be a nebula. He measured and recorded its position on September 12, 1758. Since then, his quest was not only restricted to the comets, but also the other non-comet deep sky objects. In 1764, Messier was elected a Fellow in the Royal Society and in 1769 the Royal Academy of Sweden in Stockholm elected him as foreign member. He was appointed as a member of the French Academy of Sciences on June 1770.
In the course of his search for the comets Messier came across many other fascinating astronomical objects. The non-comet objects discovered by Messier were called “Messier objects”. From 28 August 1758 when found the first nebula known as the “Crab Nebula” or “M1” (Messier 1) to 1764, he recorded 38 objects in his catalog. He added nine more on March 18, 1781 and began to consider and add the nebulae found by other astronomers. The first version of the catalogue was published on 1774, in the journal of the French academy of Sciences, which consisted of 45 objects. The final version of the catalogue, in which the list of Messier objects had grown to 103, was published in “Connoissance des Temps for 1784”.