Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 December 2014
This book is your companion under the stars. Similar to a field guide to birds, insects, or flowers, this book will help you locate and identify the Messier objects – the most famous deep-sky splendors visible from the Northern Hemisphere. It contains, among other things, finder charts to help you locate them, photographs, pencil drawings of their telescopic appearance, detailed descriptions, and descriptions of other interesting celestial sights near them. I have also included a lineup of some of my favorite non-Messier objects.
Each Messier object section opens with a photograph and some essential data, including the object’s coordinates, magnitude, apparent size, and distance. Descriptions of the object from a translation of Charles Messier’s original catalogue and from the New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (1888) or the two subsequent Index Catalogues (1895 and 1908) follow. These data and descriptions should help you realize what to expect when you first glance at a Messier object through the eyepiece.
The objects are ordered as Messier catalogued them. However, you can view them in any order you wish, as long as a particular object is above the horizon when you plan to observe it. Use a star wheel or an astronomy app to determine which constellations, and therefore which Messier objects, are visible on the date and time of night you want to look.