Timeline of Charles Messier (June 26, 1730 - April 12, 1817)
This timeline summarizes the most important events in the life of
Charles Messier, especially of his astronomical activities.
We also have a more descriptive
biography of Charles Messier.
- 1730, June 26
- Charles Messier was born in Badonviller, Lorraine, France;
10th of 12 children.
- The Father of Messier dies.
- The young Messier observes a great comet (from Lorraine still).
- 1748, July 25
- An annular solar eclipse is visible from France, and observed by the
- The 21 year old Charles Messier goes to Paris and gets employed by
Nicholas Delisle; gets advised to astronomical observing and recording.
- 1753, May 6
- Charles Messier's first documented astronomical observation of the Mercury
- Regular appointment as Depot Clerk of the Navy.
- Messier begins his search for comet Halley. First observation of
- Messier makes his first comet observations, following his first independent
(telescopic) co-discovery of Comet 1758 De La Nux, from August 14 to
November 2, and independently discovers
M1, the Crab Nebula
(August 28, measured September 12).
Comet Halley is rediscovered by Johann Georg Palitzsch (December 25).
- Messier independently discovers and observes Comet Halley (1759 I)
from January 21 to June 3.
- Messier discovers Comet 1759 II Messier (January 26) and co-discovers
the Comet 1759 III, known as the Great Comet of 1760 (January 8).
On September 11, he independently discovers the globular star cluster
M2 (previously recorded by Maraldi).
- Observation of a Venus transit.
- Observations of Comet 1762 Klinkenberg.
- Discovery of Comet 1763 Messier (September 28). Messier was almost elected
to the Academy of Sciences.
- Discovery of Comet 1764 Messier (January 3). His first own deep sky
discovery of globular cluster M3, cataloged
on May 3, probably causes him to undertake a systematical search for
nebulous objects, leading to the observation and recording of the objects
many of which were own discoveries, but several from old catalogs.
Messier was made a member of the Royal Society of London.
- M41 recorded (January 16).
Delisle retires, Messier continues observing.
- Messier discovers 1766 I Messier (March 8),
co-discovers 1766 II Helfenzrieder (April 8).
- Messier takes part in a 3 1/2 months ship voyage to test some new
chronometers, and is absent from Paris from May 12 to September 1.
- March 4:
added to the catalog; first version finished.
Messier discovers Comet 1769 Messier (August 8).
- Messier discovers Comet 1770 I Lexell (June 14, named after its orbit
Elected to the Academy of Sciences (June 30).
On November 26, Charles Messier (then 40) married Marie-Francoise de
- Co-discovered Comet 1770 II, called Great Comet (January 10),
discovered Comet 1771 Messier (April 1).
First catalog published (list of 45).
Shortly after publication,
- Birth of Messier's son, Antoine-Charles (March 15), followed by the
death of both Madame Messier (March 23) and their son (March 26).
Observed Comet 1772 Montaigne (March 26 - April 3).
Discovered M50 (April 5).
Absence in Lorraine September - November.
- M110 discovered but not cataloged,
Comet 1773 Messier (October 12).
- M51, M52;
introduced to Pierre Méchain.
Observed Comet 1774 Montaigne.
Messier reports "specks" crossing the sun.
- M54, M55.
- Messier co-discovers Comet 1779 Bode (January 19).
Second version of the catalog published
(up to M68, with
M69 and M70
described independently in the same volume of Connaissance des Temps
Messier discovers Comet 1780 I Messier (October 27).
- A very eventful year for Charles Messier, really !
At the beginning of this year, he cataloged
and added Méchain's objects
without personal validation, to get his list ready
for its final publication in Connaissance des Temps for 1784.
He added M104 very shortly after publication
(May 11), and probably also positions for the hitherto undetermined
objects M102 and
M103, as well as those nebulae mentioned
at M97 (now
M109). Méchain discovered
M105 (March) and
Herschel discovered Uranus on March 13, Messier got the note in April and
observed it since.
Méchain discovered two comets, 1781 I (June 28) and 1781 II
(October 9), which Messier observed from June 28 to July 16, and from
October 10 to November 5, respectively.
On November 6, his work was abruptly interrupted by his accidental fall into
the ice cellar.
- April: The last Messier object, M107, was
discovered by Pierre Méchain.
August: William Herschel begins his deep-sky survey, stimulated by Messier's
catalog. On September 7, he originally discovers his first deepsky object:
The Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009).
November 9: Messier recovers from his accident.
November 12: observes Mercury transit.
- Messier observes Comet 1783 Pigott, independantly co-discovered by
Herschel starts systematic deepsky scans on October 28.
- "Great Comet" 1784 (discovered January 24 by Cassini and others).
Chevalier d'Angos announces an unverifiable comet discovery (perhaps M27).
- Messier discovers Comet 1785 I Messier-Méchain (January 7).
Also observes Comet 1785 II Méchain (discovered March 11).
- Herschel's first catalog of 1,000 "nebulous objects" published.
- Messier discovers Comet 1788 I Messier (November 26)
- The French Revolution begins with the "Storming of the Bastille" (June 14).
- Comet 1793 I Messier (September 27). "Year of Terror" in France.
- Comet 1798 I Messier (April 12).
- First asteroid (Ceres) discovered.
Messier co-discovers Comet 1801 Pons (July 12).
- 1817, April 11-12
- In this night, Charles Messier passed away in his 87th year, in his home
- Kenneth Glyn Jones:
Messier's Nebulae and Star Clusters.
Faber & Faber, 1968; 2nd revised edition
Cambridge University Press, 1991.
- Don Machholz:
The Messier Marathon Observer's Guide.
Make Wood Products, P.O.Box 1716, Colfax, CA 95713 (USA). 1994.
- Jean-Paul Philbert:
Charles Messier. Le furet des comètes.
(Charles Messier. The ferret of comets).
Editions Pierron, 2 rue Gutenberg, 57206 Sarreguemines, France, 2000.
Last Modification: 9 Mar 2001, 12:00 MET