Levy, David H. Jarnac Comet Survey, Vail, Arizona.
Last reviewed:December 2019
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An early listing of nebulae and star clusters. Although Charles Messier (1730–1817) was primarily a comet hunter, he is remembered for his catalog of objects. As the first serious and systematic comet hunter (his comet discoveries spanned from 1760 to 1801), Messier learned about the hazards of being misled by the galaxies, nebulae and star clusters all over the sky that look like comets. In 1758, when Messier found a fuzzy patch near the star beta Tauri that he first thought was a comet but that never moved as a comet would, he began to build a catalog of these objects. “This nebula had such a resemblance to a comet, in its form and brightness,” Messier wrote, “that I endeavored to find others, so that astronomers would not confuse these same nebulae with comets just beginning to shine.” This first entry is the Crab Nebula, the remnant of the supernova, a near-total destruction of a star, that was observed on July 4, 1054, to be as bright as Venus. (The Crab Nebula was previously discovered by John Bevis.) See also: Comet; Crab Nebula; Galaxy, external; Nebula; Planetary nebula; Star clusters
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