Charles Messier

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Charles Messier was a French astronomer. He was born on June 26, 1730 in Badonviller, Lorraine, France, and died April 12, 1817 in Paris.

Messier was the tenth of twelve children. When he was eleven his father died and he had to leave school in order to earn money for his family.

Since he could not find well-paid work in his hometown, he left for Paris at the age of 21. Working as an assitant to Nicholas Delisle, who had returned to France in 1747 and built a small observatory on the Hotel de Cluny, he had to take notes of all observations. While Libour, the secretary of Deslisle, introduced Messier to the use of the astronomical instruments, Delisle himself taught Messier astronomy, pressing upon him the need to note accurate positional data during all observations.

From now on astronomy determined his life. Special influence on his course of life came from the comet of 1744 and the solar eclipse in 1748. While doing lots of observations, for example the Venus transit in 1761 and the rings of Saturn, his great love belonged to comets. Due to his conversation with other scientists in Germany, England and Russia he became a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1764), the Royal Society (1764), the Berlin Acadamy of Sciences (1769) and Paris Academie Royale des Science (1770).

Since all the nebular marks in the nocturnal sky disturbed his search for comets again and again, he decided to set up a catalogue with exact coordinates and descriptions. Thus the famous Messier Catalogue, which is still used today by lots of astronoms, was born.

In April 1781 his catalogue contained more than hundred objects and was published in the "Connaissance des Temps 1784".

In April 1798 Messier found his last comet near the plejads. Shortly after receiving the Cross of the Legion of Honour from Napoleon, he retired. 1815 he suffered a stroke, which partly paralyzed him. 1817 he got gout and finally died in the night from 11. to 12. of April 1817.

Messier discovered 21 comets but became famous because of his catalogue of nebular objects. He was honored by the astronomical community by naming a moon crater and an asteroid after him.

External links

  • [1] The Messier Catalogue