Common Names for Messier Objects

Also note the most recent copy of the list arranged by Messier numbers.

You are invited to supply all additional common names you know for them ! Just contact me.

Common names for the Messier objects (as well as other deep sky objects) are usually assigned for either the constellation where the object is situated, or to honor the discoverer, or to desribe the object's appearance in a way easy to remember; but there are no rules for assigning common names.

Names used in various sources:

Some of the names often carry the adjective "Great" or something alike; I omit those forms of names for reasonability.
"Andromeda Galaxy"
M31
"Barbell Nebula"
M76 (also Little Dumbbell Nebula, Butterfly Nebula, or Cork Nebula). Mike Frazier calles it "Apple Core Nebula".
"Beehive Cluster"
M44 (also Praesepe or Manger)
"Blackeye Galaxy"
M64, also sometimes called the "Sleeping Beauty Galaxy".
"Bode's Galaxy" or "Bode's Nebula"
M81 (Murdin/Allen/Malin 1979)
"Butterfly Cluster"
M6 (`Splendors of the Heavens', Phillips/Steaphenson 1923). According to Jeff Bondono, also M93 is also sometimes called by this name.
"Butterfly Nebula"
M76 (also Little Dumbbell Nebula, Cork Nebula, or Barbell Nebula). Mike Frazier calles it "Apple Core Nebula".
"Cetus A"
M77
"Checkmark Nebula"
M17 (also Omega, Swan, Horseshoe, or Lobster Nebula)
"Cigar Galaxy"
M82. Brought to my attention by Tom Polakis.
"Cork Nebula"
M76 (also Little Dumbbell Nebula, Butterfly Nebula, or Barbell Nebula). Mike Frazier calles it "Apple Core Nebula".
"Crab Nebula"
M1 (Rosse 1844)
"Delle Caustiche"
M24. The Sagittarius Star Cloud. A Milky Way Patch containing the open cluster NGC 6603
"de Mairan's Nebula"
M43. Part of the Orion Nebula
"Diablo Nebula"
M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. Contributed by Jeff Bondono, also Sky Catalog 2000.
"Double-Headed Shot"
M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. Contributed by Jeff Bondono, also Sky Catalog 2000.
"Dragon Nebula"
Name for a part of the Lagoon Nebula M8 (Sky Catalog 2000).
"Dumbbell Nebula"
M27. Jeff Bondono found that it is also called "Diablo Nebula" or "Double-Head Shot", J.R. Freeman heard "Apple Core Nebula".
"Dumbbell Nebula, Little"
M76 (also Cork, Butterfly, or Barbell Nebula). Mike Frazier calles it "Apple Core Nebula". The name "Little Dumbbell Nebula" is most common, e.g. Sky Catalogue 2000
NB: This object seems to attract names like no other: It has also two NGC numbers: 650 and 651.
"Eagle Nebula"
IC 4703 associated with the star cluster M16 (also "Star Queen Nebula")
"Hercules Globular Cluster"
M13
"Horseshoe Nebula"
M17 (also Omega, Swan, Lobster, or Checkmark Nebula)
"Hourglass Nebula"
Brightest Part of M8, the Lagoon Nebula
"[St.] Katherine's Wheel"
The beautiful spiral galaxy M99. Referred by this name by Francis Jacob (1895) - thanks to Bob McGown and Dareth Murray for communicating.
"Lagoon Nebula"
M8. Its center contains "The Hourglass Nebula" (A.D. Thackeray 1956).
"Leo Triplet"
M65, M66 and NGC 3628 form this physical trio
"Little Dumbbell Nebula"
M76 (also Cork, Butterfly, or Barbell Nebula). Mike Frazier calles it "Apple Core Nebula". The name "Little Dumbbell Nebula" is most common, e.g. Sky Catalogue 2000
"Lobster Nebula"
M17 (also Omega, Swan, Horseshoe, or Checkmark Nebula); thanks to Steve Mencinsky for this contribution, a common name for M17 on the Southern hemisphere.
"Manger" (Praesepe)
M44 (also Beehive Cluster)
"Milky Way Patch"
M24 (also "Delle Caustiche"). Star cloud containing the open cluster NGC 6603
"Omega Nebula"
M17 (also Swan, Horseshoe, Lobster, or Checkmark Nebula)
"Orion Nebula"
M42. M43 is also a part of it.
"Owl Nebula"
M97
"Pinwheel Galaxy"
Two, or even three, galaxies (all in Messier's catalog) share this name:
M101. More common [Murdin/Allen/Malin 1979, Sky Catalogue 2000, RASC Observer's Handbook]
M33, the Triangulum Galaxy [Burnham, RASC]; take "Triangulum Pinwheel" for distinguishing
M99 [RASC]; take "Coma Pinwheel" or "Virgo Cluster Pinwheel" for distinguishing, if needed. M99 is also, more properly, referred to as "St. Katherine's Wheel."
The name is perhaps more common for M101 because it has no other name. The only major source having this name for M33 is Burnham.
"Pleiades"
M45 (also Subaru or the Seven Sisters)
"Praesepe" (Manger)
M44 (also Beehive Cluster)
"Ptolemy's Cluster"
M7 (Ptolemy mentioned it 138 AD, hf)
"Question Mark" of Lord Rosse
M51 (also The Whirlpool Galaxy)
"Ring Nebula"
M57
"Sagittarius Star Cloud"
M24 (also "Delle Caustiche"). A Milky Way Patch containing open star cluster NGC 6603.
Satellite Galaxies of M31
M32, M110
"Seven Sisters"
M45 (also Subaru, the Pleiades)
"Sleeping Beauty Galaxy"
M64, also the Blackeye Galaxy.
"Smoking Gun"
Name for the active center of M87 (Virgo A). Nasa/STScI.
"Sombrero Galaxy"
M104
"Southern Pinwheel Galaxy"
M83
"Spindle Galaxy"
M102 (NGC 5866) (hf, Sky&Telescope 7/95 p. 51). Name shared with NGC 3115
"Star Queen Nebula"
IC 4703 associated with the star cluster M16 (also "Eagle Nebula")
"Subaru"
M45 (also the Pleiades or Seven Sisters)
"Sunflower galaxy"
M63
"Swan Nebula"
M17 (also Omega, Horseshoe, Lobster, or Checkmark Nebula)
"Trapezium Cluster"
Cluster of young stars in M42, the Orion Nebula
"Triangulum Galaxy"
M33 (also "Pinwheel", that shared with M101)
"Trifid Nebula"
M20
"Virgo A"
M87 in the center of the Virgo cluster. Its active center is called "The Smoking Gun"
"Whirlpool Galaxy"
M51 (Lord Rosse's "Question Mark")
"Wild Duck Cluster"
M11 (Smyth)
"Winnecke 4" (WNC4)
M40, the Double Star in Ursa Major
"WNC 4" (Winnecke 4)
M40, the Double Star in Ursa Major

Propositions for further names:

Many of these proposed names have been contributed by amateur astronomer Jeff Bondono -- thanks !
"Apple Core Nebula"
Two nebulae share this name (the Dumbbell and the Little Dumbbell Nebula, or should we say the "Normal" and Little Dumbbell ? :-) )
M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. Contributed by J.R. Freeman, common in Southern California.
M76, the Little Dumbbell, Cork or Butterfly Nebula. This is Mike Frazier's name for it.
NB: This object seems to attract names like no other: It has also two NGC numbers: 650 and 651.
"Blowdryer Galaxy"
M100. Contributed by Devon J. Moore - because it is pinwheel-shaped and that it's in Coma, "The Hair Constellation."
"Butterfly Cluster"
M93. Contributed by Jeff Bondono. This name is shared with M6, see above.
"Cat's Eye Galaxy"
M94. Contributed by Devon J. Moore.
"Cooling Tower"
M29. Contributed by Jeff Bondono.
"Heart-Shaped Cluster"
M50. Contributed by Jeff Bondono.
"Maytag Galaxy"
M33; humourous American name for the Triangulum galaxy, as M51, the Whirlpool galaxy, and M33 are both gorgeous face-on spirals, and "Whirlpool" and "Maytag" are both washing machines. Contributed by J.R. Freeman.
"Perfect Spiral Galaxy"
M74 (Gemini Press Release 2001-2).
"Pinwheel Cluster"
M36. Contributed by Jeff Bondono.
"Salt-and-Pepper Clusters"
Jeff Bondono has proposed these names for a collection of open clusters, namely M11, M37, and M52. Originally we had attributed them for terrestrial seasons, so that they had different names on the Southern and the Northern hemisphere, respectively. This has caused protest, so that we decided to drop these names now -- sorry to all who have enjoyed them, but, as Jeff has put it: This list should contain only generally accepted propositions. But he has now proposed naming them by month names, and I could imagine to name them after their homing constellations:
M11 "July Salt-and-Pepper", "Scutum Salt-and-Pepper"
M37 "January Salt-and-Pepper", "Auriga Salt-and-Pepper"
M52 "October Salt-and-Pepper", "Cassiopeia Salt-and-Pepper"
"Spiral Cluster"
M34. Contributed by Jeff Bondono.
"Starfish Cluster"
M38. Contributed by Jeff Bondono.
"Surfboard Galaxy"
M108. Proposition by Scott D. Davis.
"Vacuum Cleaner Galaxy"
M109. Proposed by Devon J. Moore.
  • Look at a list of some more Common Names for Deep Sky Objects
    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg
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    Last Modification: April 26, 2013