Messier List with Location Maps

Our mission as an astronomical society is to educate the general public in the basics of astronomy in order to appreciate and enjoy the wonders and the beauty of the universe. To stay true to our mission and our vision, as you can see by our schedule and other posts, we also provide various kinds of astronomical information from time to time.

If you have a telescope or binoculars, here’s a little something to help you in your quest for observing the Messier objects. It’s the M list and star charts to help you locate them. Of course, if you have a “Go To” telescope, all you need is the list so you can simply input the M (Messier) number into the telescope, and have it “go to” your choice. But, some say that’s no way to learn. “Star hopping” by using charts is the “only” way to go. Well, whatever method you want to use, here’s the list and charts. Just click on the link, and you can download the PDF.

Messier list and chart

Here’s a suggestion: because the list is by number, you have to “jump around” the list to find objects in the same area of the sky. If you don’t mind doing a little work, make a spreadsheet with all of the given information, then alphabetize the list by constellation. That way, you’ll have all objects in each constellation grouped together so you can stay in one area to find several objects before moving to another area of sky.

Just in case you don’t know about Messier, here’s the history:
Charles Messier was a French astronomer (26 June 1730 – 12 April 1817). Charles’ interest in astronomy was stimulated by the appearance of a six-tailed comet in 1744 and an annular solar eclipse seen from his hometown on July 25th, 1748. He was encouraged to keep records of his observations. Messier’s first documented observation was that of the Mercury transit of 6 May 1753. In 1764, he was made a fellow of the Royal Society, in 1769, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and on 30 June 1770, he was elected to the French Academy of Sciences.

Messier’s passion was comets, so he devoted his astronomy occupation to “hunting” for comets. Although he did discover 13 comets, most of his discoveries were other fixed diffuse objects in the night sky which could be mistaken for comets. His discoveries were all from his vantage point in Paris, France using a 100 mm (4″) refractor. Although not all of the discoveries cataloged were actually his, there was no objection to attributing them to him. His catalog contains 110 objects, including galaxies, planetary nebulae, other types of nebulae, and star clusters (open and globular).

The Messier catalog has long been used by amateur astronomy clubs as an aid in learning how to locate celestial objects. It very well may be the best known catalog today. We hope you use it and enjoy the view.

Send your name to the Sun

Want to take a trip to the Sun? Maybe you can’t go, but here’s how you can send your name.  NASA is inviting people worldwide to submit their name to be placed on a microchip on the Parker Solar Probe to be launched in the Summer of 2018.

The probe is designed to travel through the Sun’s corona, the outer layer of its atmosphere, at a temperature of 2,500 degrees F, 4 million miles from the Sun’s surface. The shield protecting the four groups of instruments is like nothing designed before. The probe will travel at a speed of about 430,000 mph.

NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission. And your name will go along for the ride.

You can register on the NASA website:

Register now and send your name to the Sun. Deadline is April 27, 2018.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17, will soon be upon us.

And you’re wondering what a “green blooded” leprechaun has to do with astronomy, right?

Well, there’s no pot of gold at the end of the celestial rainbow. At least, none has been discovered yet. The closest we have come to it is the probability of diamond “rain” in the atmosphere of Uranus. Maybe that’s better, but it’s not a pot of gold.

But maybe there is a better connection. If you’re a “Trekkie”,

You may have thought about this: Take your typical leprechaun, for instance. And take your typical Vulcan (of Star Trek fame).

See any common trait here? Check the ears. And don’t forget the Vulcan copper-based green blood.

Got it?

Live Long and Prosper

Solar Cycle Nearing Minimum

Updated April 27, 2018:

Has anyone noticed anything different about the Sun? Anything unusual? Well, there’s nothing different, nothing unusual. The Sun is just going through its normal cycle. So, if you’ve looked lately, you’ve probably noticed that Sunspots are becoming rarer. The Sun goes through cycles. These cycles are measured by the number of Sunspots seen on the Sun’s surface, that is, the Earth-facing side. Each cycle lasts for about 11 years, with slight variations of time in each cycle.

The solar cycle was discovered in 1843 by Samuel Heinrich Schwabe, and using other observations, reconstructed the cycle back to 1745. Prior cycles were reconstructed from observations going back as far as Galileo and others in the early 1600’s. We are presently in cycle 24.  Right now, the Sunspot number is decreasing, and it has been for some time. Let’s look at the numbers.

Cycle 24 peaked in April, 2014 with 101 Sunspots, the weakest in a hundred years. There was only 1 day in 2014 with no Sunspots. 2015 had 0 spotless days. 2016 had 32 spotless days. 2017 had 104 spotless day. As of May 11 of 2018, there have been 73 spotless days this year, yielding a yearly percentage of 56% so far. The last “spotless” days stretch, ending May 5, was 6 days. The minimum is expected to “peak” in 2019-2020.

But even with this minimum, there is still activity to be observed. There are still the occasional flares and CME’s (Coronal Mass Ejections). And then there are the “holes” in the Sun’s atmosphere that let stronger than normal streams of solar wind, charged particles, target the Earth’s atmosphere and produce those awesome auroras in the high latitudes. So if you have a solar telescope, keep watching, it’s not hopeless.

Keep checking back, we’ll keep you updated weekly.