Charles Messier


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Charles Messier, around 1770

Charles Messier (born June 26, 1730 in Badonviller ( Lorraine ), † April 12, 1817 in Paris ) was a French astronomer . Among other things, he worked as an astronomer in the French Navy and later in the Bureau des Longitudes and is considered the discoverer of 20 comets . In addition, with the Messier catalog, he created a directory, later named after him, of astronomical objects such as galaxies , star clusters and nebulae .

Life

Messier was born in Badonviller , the capital of the Principality of Salm , in 1730 , the tenth of twelve children of the administrative officer Nicolas Messier. He came from a wealthy background. Six of his siblings died as children. His interest in astronomy was aroused as early as 1744 when he was able to observe the large six-tailed comet C / 1743 X1 . He took 21 years to Paris and was created by the astronomers of the Navy , Nicholas Delisle , hired. In 1754 he became a clerk in the navy, where he had to draw maps, among other things. Delisle taught him the basics of astronomy and urged him to give exact position information from all observations. From 1764 on, he mainly devoted himself to the search for comets. He corresponded with professionals in England, Germany and Russia. In 1770, at the age of 40, he married Marie-Françoise de Vermauchampt. A year and a half later, his wife and their son died eleven days after he was born.

In 1771 he was appointed astronomer in the navy, succeeding Delisle. Ten years later, he suffered serious injuries in a fall, from which he was only slowly recovering at the age of 51. During the French Revolution he lost his job and became impoverished. In 1796, however, he found a job in the Bureau des Longitudes . In 1806 Napoleon awarded him the Cross of the Legion of Honor . Since his eyesight was deteriorating, he observed, very old, less and less. The last comet he saw (with the help of others) was the Great Comet of 1807 . In 1815 he suffered a stroke; two years later he died in Paris at the very old age of almost 87 years.

Discoveries

Memorial plaque in Badonviller

Since 1757 he was looking for the expected Halley's comet on behalf of Delisle , but only found it in January 1759, four weeks after its rediscovery by Johann Georg Palitzsch due to a calculation error by Delisle . In 1761 he observed the passage of Venus , three years later he made the first new discovery of a comet. He made a total of twenty discoveries by 1801, including fourteen independent and six co-discoveries. In his search for new comets, he came across a variety of other objects such as galaxies , star clusters or nebulae . The first of these structures - later called Messier 1 or M 1 - he had already observed in 1758. In order to simplify his work, he looked specifically for more copies. He also used the catalogs of Edmond Halley , Nicolas Louis de Lacaille , Jacopo Filippo Maraldi and Jean-Baptiste Le Gentil .

Finally, he listed these 45 objects in the Messier catalog , which was later named after him, and the first version of which was published in 1771. In 1774, Jérôme Lalande , then France's leading astronomer, introduced him to Pierre Méchain . This led to a fruitful collaboration. By 1780 the catalog had grown to 68 entries. In September 1782, Méchain discovered the 107th Messier object . From then on, Messier stopped his search for further nebulae and concentrated again on comets - probably because Wilhelm Herschel had started the observations with a superior device. The last version of his catalog with 103 objects was published in Connaissance des temps for 1784 in 1781 .

Messier used a number of very different telescopes , including telescopes with focal lengths of up to seven meters and reflectors with mirror diameters of up to 20 cm aperture.

Honors

Messier was a member of a variety of scientific academies , including those of England , Sweden , Germany , France and Russia . The lunar crater Messier and the asteroid (7359) Messier are named after him. The Messier Canal , a strait in southern Chile between the vast Wellington Island and the mainland, also bears his name.

List of comets discovered by Messier

  1. 1P / Halley (1758 Y1), Halley's Comet : January 1759 (co-discovery)
  2. C / 1758 K1 : August 1758 (a comet not named after him, Delisle had prevented publication)
  3. C / 1760 A1 (Great Comet) : January 8, 1759 (co-discovery)
  4. C / 1760 B1 (Messier) : January 26, 1759
  5. C / 1763 S1 (Messier) : September 28, 1763, 1- foot telescope
  6. C / 1764 A1 (Messier) : January 3, 1764, clear-sighted
  7. C / 1766 E1 (Messier) : March 8, 1766, 5-foot telescope
  8. D / 1766 G1 (Helfenzrieder 1) : April 1766 (co-discovery)
  9. C / 1769 P1 (Messier) : August 8, 1769, small telescope
  10. D / 1770 L1 (Lexell) : June 14, 1770 (named after Anders Johan Lexell , the calculator of the orbit data)
  11. C / 1771 A1 (Great Comet) : January 1771 (co-discovery)
  12. C / 1771 G1 (Messier) : April 1, 1771, clear-sighted
  13. C / 1773 T1 (Messier) : October 12, 1773, 2-foot telescope
  14. C / 1779 A1 (Bode) : January 1779 (co-discovery)
  15. C / 1780 U2 (Messier) : October 27, 1780, 3.5-foot telescope
  16. C / 1785 A1 (Messier-Méchain) : January 7, 1785 (co-discovery)
  17. C / 1788 W1 (Messier) : November 25, 1788
  18. C / 1793 S2 (Messier) : September 26, 1793
  19. C / 1798 G1 (Messier) : April 12, 1798
  20. C / 1801 N1 (Pons) : July 12, 1801 (co-discovery)

Web links

Commons : Charles Messier  - collection of images, videos and audio files

swell

  1. ^ Otto J. Pilzer (Astronomical Working Group Laufen eV): Charles Messier - the man behind the name . Monthly Topic November 2009, online article November 1, 2009, accessed September 14, 2013
  2. 7359 Messier (1996 BH) JPL Small-Body Database Browser, 7359 Messier en.wikipedia