Thursday, October 8, 2015

Messier 33--10.8.15

Here's an image of M33 taken in our light-polluted skies. The 'M' designation is taken from the Messier Catalog, a list of 110 objects (this list contained 103 at the time of Messier's death) that could be mistaken for comets by comet hunters. As a comet hunter himself, these objects were a frustration to Messier, so in 1771, he published a listing of these objects to avoid. He observed them from a hotel in Paris using a small 4 inch telescope.
M33 is a spiral galaxy, sometimes called the Triangulum Galaxy or Pinwheel Galaxy. It seems to be a part of our local group of galaxies, which includes the mighty M31, Andromeda Galaxy. You can just make out the spiral arms of this galaxy in this image.
I'm always amazed when I think of the achievement of Charles Messier, working in Paris with a his inch refractor, M33 was completely invisible in the scope against the skyglow; Messier must have had wonderful dark sky conditions, even in a city like Paris.