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


NASA’s Osiris-Rex is a space probe designed to travel to an asteroid, orbit around it, gather some material from it then return to Earth. Osiris-Rex was launched on September 8, 2016.
Now, OSIRIS-REx is going to fly past Earth on Sept. 22nd and sling-shot itself toward “Bennu.”, an asteroid classified as potentially hazardous to Earth. At its closest approach, OSIRIS-REx will be only 10,711 miles above Earth’s surface, inside the orbit of geosynchronous satellites.
Bennu crosses Earth’s orbit every six years and in 2135, the asteroid may enter what is called a “keyhole” between the Earth and the Moon where the gravitational pull of Earth could slightly change Bennu’s orbit, potentially putting it on course for Earth later in the century. Currently, the odds of a collision 150+ years from now are no more than about 1 in 2700, small, but enough to prompt an $800 million space mission.
The depiction below will give you an idea of just how large Bennu is.

Well, on September 22, Osiris-REx performed admirably. It dipped down over Antarctica, picking up another 8,450 mph, and sped off at about 19,000 mph, heading for Bennu.

Osiris-Rex is scheduled to arrive at Bennu in August of 2018. There, it will spend more than a year flying in close proximity to Bennu using five instruments to survey the asteroid. The resulting maps will be used to pinpoint a safe sampling site, where the probe can each out with a mechanical arm and gather material from the asteroid’s surface. If all goes as planned, Osiris-Rex will return to Earth in the Fall of 2023 for the samples to be analyzed.
We’ll keep you posted over the next 6 years or so, so stay tuned.

August 21, 2017 Solar Eclipse Photography

From our presentations to people on the street, we’re getting questions about not only how to view the eclipse, but how to photograph it. With this in mind, here’s some information.

First, as with viewing the eclipse, unaided by any electronic equipment,  DO NOT point your camera at the Sun without a proper filter over the lens. No matter what type of camera you have, this could cause serious damage to the camera.

Now, rather than give you a lot of information here, let me direct you to a website which has everything you need to know, from viewing to photographing. The website is:

From the main page, for information for photographing, scroll down until you see “Eclipse Potpourri”. Under this heading is a sub heading, “How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse”.

Well, there it is. clear skies and good luck.

Why did the Schiaparelli probe crash?

The European Space Agency has finished their investigation into the Schiaparelli probe crash. Apparently excessive rotation of the craft during descent caused the onboard computer to calculate that the probe was actually below ground level. While the probe was still 3.7 km above the surface of Mars it activated the “on-ground” systems, resulting in the crash. More details in the article below:

ESA Completes Inquiry into ExoMars Schiaparelli Failure

Sun-n-Fun 2017

Sun-n-Fun earlier this April was just that: lots of Sun and lots of fun. There was more than airplanes in the sky. Here we’re giving some instruction and education about the Sun while we actually looked at it. Although the Sun was relatively quiet, we tracked a group of Sunspots across the solar disk all week and witnessed a small solar prominence emanating from the group as it rounded the viewable edge of the Sun.

Here we are setting up for the night show, star gazing that is. We had some nice views of Jupiter, the Moon, stars and star clusters.

But the fireworks turned out to be a bit brighter than the stars; louder too. But all in all, everyone enjoyed looking through our scopes and seeing the wonders of space, up close and personal.

The Blue Angels were impressive too.

ESA’s Schiaparelli Mars Lander Crashes

The probe fell out of the sky from more than a mile up, impacted the ground at more than 185 mph, and catastrophically blew up with its tanks full of fuel.


The lander was released from the orbiter as planned; the parachute opened as planned; the forward heat shield released as planned; the rear heat shield (and parachute) released as planned; but apparently, the retro jets to slow the lander to a safe landing speed did not function and the lander crashed into the surface of Mars.

To date, there have been 18 attempted landings; 8 have been successful. Current proposals would place man on Mars somewhere between 2037 and 2040. Any volunteers?

Sun-n-Fun’s Aerospace Discovery Weekend

2016-october-aerospace-discovery-weekendHere we are (the yellow shirts) with a group of Scouts during our Solar observing. The weather was perfect and the observers  were excited to look at the Sun, seeing Sunspots and prominences.

The Scouts and other youth weren’t the only ones enjoying the view of the stars. One young man had to share his experience with his Teddy Bear.