Sortable list of Messier Objects

Although I’ve been interested in the stars for years, I’ve only recently become a telescope owner.  Despite the lack of clear nights since receiving my new toy, I’ve spent some time looking at the obvious things like the moon and whichever planets happen to be in the right place at the right time.  So far I’ve managed to find Jupiter and Venus (both fairly obvious because they’re so bright), Saturn and Uranus (more by luck  than judgement if I’m honest: it was very close in the sky to Jupiter at the time and easy to “star-hop” to from there).

That done, I’ve decided that it would help “get my eye in” and I’d get some useful practice at using the scope if I started hunting for some of the easier Messier objects; a list of 110 deep space objects catalogued by Charles Messier getting on for 250 years ago.  He was actually interested in finding comets (and did find quite a few), but this list was all the things he’d found that he was sure weren’t comets.  Some are other galaxies such as the Andromeda Galaxy, some are nebulae where stars are dying and others forming (like the one in Orion’s sword) and others are just dense groups of stars (the Beehive, in Cancer, for example).

Hunting specific deep space objects requires a little planning, so it was going to be useful to know which DSOs were in which constellations and how bright they might be.  My telescope isn’t huge, and unless the air is exceptionally clear it just wouldn’t be possible to find some of the fainter ones.  Some of the constellations aren’t visible at all times of the year, either, so there’s no point looking for objects in Orion, for example, in the middle of summer.  Wikipedia has a full list of the Messier objects, but it doesn’t sort very well, so I created my own.  I’m sure it’s possible to do in Open Office or Excel, but I’m not particularly competent at driving either of those, so I stuck the data in a database and built a web-based sortable table of Messier Objects instead using PHP and Javascript. When I have another few minutes spare, I’ll add more data for each object such as the common names and Right Ascension/Declination.

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