May 15, 2003
During the years from 1758 to 1782 Charles Messier, a French astronomer (1730 - 1817), compiled a list of approximately 100 diffuse objects that were difficult to distinguish from comets through the telescopes of the day. Discovering comets was the way to make a name for yourself in astronomy in the 18th century -- Messier's aim was to catalog the objects that were often mistaken for comets. Fortunately for us, the Messier Catalog became well known for a much higher purpose, as a collection of the most beautiful objects in the sky including nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies. It was one of the first major milestones in the history of the discovery of Deep Sky objects, as it was the first more comprehensive and more reliable list.