Messier Certificate

To earn this certificate, you need to observe the objects in the modern catalog first compiled by the famous comet hunter Charles Messier. Since this can sometimes be a daunting, multi-year task, a preliminary certificate is awarded after viewing any 75 objects which is then amended upon completion of all 109.

A telescope with an aperture of three inches or more will be required to complete this certificate. And a good atlas (such as Tirion's Sky Atlas 2000.0), or accurate setting circles are a must. In addition, a set of handbooks which describes each object, while not essential, will make the searches more enjoyable. Comparing your own observations to those of other astronomers can be enlightening. The references section below lists some excellent guides; many others are available as well.

Depending on the size of your telescope, your experience, and your observing location; the challenge may be in simply locating all of the the objects, not seeing a great deal of detail. Do not be discouraged if some objects appear as unadorned smudges of light. Only under very dark skies, and under excellent weather conditions, can details be seen in some objects. And remember Charles Messier had no shopping mall sodium vapour lamps, auto dealer searchlights, or energy wasting "architectural lighting" to contend with. With experience and persistence you will develop an eye for the eyepiece which will add to your enjoyment of each "find".

An accurate log should be kept for each object observed. Each entry should list the object (both by Messier and New General Catalog (NGC) number, date, time, telescope, and magnification used. It is helpful to also include sky conditions (seeing and transparency), and a description of the object's appearance.

Useful References & Handbooks

Sky Catalog 2000.0, Volume 2, Edited by Alan Hirshfeld and Roger W Sinnott, published by Cambridge University Press & SKy Publishing Corporation, 1985.

Burnham's Celestial Handbook, by Robert Burnham, Jr., published by Dover Publications, 1978.

The Messier Album, by John Mallas and Evered Kreimer, published by Sky Publishing Corporation.

Webb Soceity Deep-Sky Observer's Handbook, edited by Kenneth Glyn Jones.

1000+: THe Amateur Astronomer's Field Guide to Deep-Sky Observing, by Tom Lorenzian.

Norton's 2000.0 Star Atls and Reference Handbook 18ed., edited by Ian Ridpath, published by John Wiley & Sons, 1991.

A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets, by Donald M. Menzel and Jay M. Pasachoff, published by Houghton Mifflin Company, 1969.

The Year-Round Messier Marathon Field Guide, by Harvard C. Pennington, published by Willmann-Bell, Inc., 1997. (Features AAAPer Tom Reiland)

The definitive online guide to the Messier List is this one at SEDS.