Messier catalog


noun Astronomy.

a catalog of nonstellar objects compiled by Charles Messier in 1784 and later slightly extended, now known to contain nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters.

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Scientific definitions for Messier catalog

Messier catalog
[ mĕsē-ā′, mĕ-syā ]

A group of fixed nonstellar celestial objects originally cataloged by the French astronomer Charles Messier (1730-1817) and since expanded from 103 to 110, although several are now considered questionable. Items in the Messier catalog are numbered from M1 (the Crab Nebula) through M110 and include what are now known to be galaxies, nebulae, and globular and open clusters. Messier's purpose was to further the search for comets by listing the indistinct celestial objects that might be mistaken for them; he had no understanding of what the items in his catalog actually were.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.