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This March, 110 nebulas, galaxies and star clusters, known as Messier objects, will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere. To celebrate this March celestial alignment, the Hubble Space Telescope ( @NASAHubble) released 12 new views of some of these objects made famous by French astronomer Charles Messier. Messier was best known for his "Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters." An avid comet-hunter, Messier compiled a catalog of deep-sky objects in order to help prevent other comet enthusiasts from wasting their time studying objects that were not comets.
Seen here is Messier 90 -- a bright, beautiful spiral galaxy situated in the Virgo cluster of galaxies, approximately 59 million light-years away from Earth. This galaxy is believed to be breaking away from the rest of the galaxies in the Virgo cluster and is one of the few galaxies traveling toward our Milky Way galaxy, not away. It contains approximately a trillion stars and was looked at by Hubble in infrared, ultraviolet and visible light.
The Messier catalog includes some of the most fascinating astronomical objects that can be observed from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. Among them are deep-sky objects that can be viewed in stunning detail using larger telescopes but are also bright enough to be seen through a small telescope. This characteristic makes Messier objects extremely popular targets for amateur astronomers possessing all levels of experience and equipment.
Whether your tool of choice is a sophisticated ground-based telescope, a decent pair of binoculars, or simply their naked eyes, observers hunting for Messier objects can use the data gathered from Hubble’s spectacular images to deepen their understanding of these 110 highlights of the night sky as they carry on the tradition of amateur astronomy.
Credits: NASA, ESA, STScI, and V. Rubin (Carnegie Institution of Washington), D. Maoz (Tel Aviv University/Wise Observatory) and D. Fisher (University of Maryland)
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