Charles Messier was a French astronomer, who lived a long time ago (1730 – 1817). He neither invented a telescope nor was the first who pointed it towards the night skies. However, he is still one of the most famous astronomers. He earned his glory by compiling the first catalog of deep space objects, known as the Messier catalog.
He made his discoveries in Paris downtown, which is nowadays completely unthinkable, because of light pollution. Back in the 18th century, there were no street lamps, and as soon as people extinguished the candles after dinner, it was completely dark even in the city center of Paris. Messier used for his observations and cataloging quite a small telescope, specifically a 100 mm refractor, which is not so optimal telescope for deep space objects. The bigger the aperture, the more light it collects, and this is probably the reason why the Messier Catalogue has only 110 members. There are other, newer catalogs of deep space objects. For instance, New General Catalogue contains 7840, but the gentlemen who compiled it used significantly larger telescopes. Anyway, it doesn’t change the fact, that the Messier Catalogue was the first one.
The story of the first catalog of deep space objects started by a mistake. Messier considered himself more like a comet hunter. Once he discovered “a comet” in the constellation Taurus. But when he repeated the observation a few days later, he found out that “the comet” is still on the same spot, thus it cannot be “a comet”. This day the first object of the Messier catalog was discovered and designated Messier 1, nowadays called the Crab Nebula.
My intention is to capture all of Messier’s deep space objects. I started in 2014 and I hope next year (2019) it will be over.
Update August 2019: the day has come and after a few years I managed to capture all the objects. It was a long way full of frustrations, but the results were worth the struggle.