Charles Messier's Comets

Messier's devotion was looking for, discovering, and observing comets. He was considerably successful in this endeavour, scoring with 13 first discoveries and 7 more independent co-discoveries. According to Gary Kronk and Messier's notes, we can add one more independent co-discovery to the 6 listed by Don Machholz, namely of the comet De La Nux 1758 (often quoted as anonymous); this was actually Messier's first comet discovery.

During his professional life, Charles Messier observed and carefully recorded 44 comets. See also his personal "Notes on My Comets".

Original discoveries

  • 1759 II Messier
  • 1763 Messier
  • 1764 Messier (Messier's Observations)
  • 1766 I Messier (Messier's Observations)
  • 1769 Messier (Bessel obtained an orbital period of 2090 years for this one)
  • 1770 I Lexell (Gary W. Kronk's Comet Lexell resource.)
  • 1771 Messier (Messier's Observations)
  • 1773 Messier
  • 1780 I Messier
  • 1785 I Messier-Méchain
  • 1788 I Messier
  • 1793 I Messier
  • 1798 I Messier

    Independent co-discoveries

  • 1758 De La Nux
  • 1759 I Halley (Messier's Memoir; Comet Halley 1758-1759; Gary W. Kronk's Comet Halley resource)
  • 1759 III "Great Comet"
  • 1766 II Helfenzrieder (Messier's Observations; Gary W. Kronk's Comet Helfenzrieder resource)
  • 1770 II "Great Comet"
  • 1779 Bode
  • 1801 Pons (Pons-Messier-Méchain-Bouvard)

    Méchain's comet discoveries

    Messier's younger colleague and close friend, Pierre Méchain, who had contributed a lot to Messier's catalog in the later times, was also a successful hunter of comets and became Messier's "most serious" rival in this field in the 1780s and 1790s; he originally discovered eight comets, and co-discovered three (including above-listed comets 1785 I Messier-Méchain and 1801 Pons):

  • 1781 I Méchain (Méchain's remarks of this comet as communicated to Bernoulli, translation from: Astronomisches Jahrbuch for 1786, p. 231-2)
  • 1781 II Méchain (Méchain's elements of this comet as communicated to Bernoulli, translation from: Astronomisches Jahrbuch for 1786, p. 231-2)
  • 1785 II Méchain
  • 1786 I Encke (Gary W. Kronk's comet 2P/Encke resource)
  • 1787 Méchain
  • 1790 II Tuttle (Gary W. Kronk's comet 8P/Tuttle resource)
  • 1799 II Méchain
  • 1799 III Méchain

    Méchain's co-discoveries:

  • 1785 I Messier-Méchain
  • 1792 II Gregory-Méchain
  • 1801 Pons (Pons-Messier-Méchain-Bouvard)

    So of the 45 comet discoveries in the time between 1758 and 1801, when Messier was successfully observing, the two astronomers were involved in 29.

    Gary W. Kronk's resources include the stories of historic observations, so among others, those of Charles Messier.

    More data on Messier's comet discoveries can be found in Don Machholz's book, The Messier Marathon Observer's Guide, page 2.

  • Comet links

    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg

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    Last Modification: September 9, 2006