By: "Tony Cecce, Corning, NY"

Twelve Month Tour of the Messier Catalog
December Messier Objects

This will be a fairly easy month on the tour. We will view two small, but bright globular clusters, two open star clusters, and the grandest galaxy in the sky along with it's two companions. All of these objects are possible to find in binoculars, most are fairly easy.

[M2 Image] M2 - This is a small, bright globular cluster in Aquarius. To find it in binoculars look for a fuzzy star in a star poor field. A low power telescope field will show a round fuzzy patch, brighter in the center and fading to the edge, in a field with no other bright objects.

[M15 Image] M15 - This globular cluster in Pegasus is very similar to M2 in size and brightness, except it is surrounded by several bright stars. Fairly easy to find in binoculars but the best view is through a telescope at medium to high power.

[M29 Image] M29 - This galactic cluster is a small, sparse group of stars in Cygnus. It appears as a small fuzzy patch amongst a rich star field in binoculars. A telescope will easily resolve the members of this cluster. The shape of the cluster reminds me of the Pleiades as viewed through binoculars.

[M39 Image] M39 - Dark skies will allow this large, bright cluster in Cygnus to be seen with the naked eye as a hazy patch of light. Binoculars easily resolve this cluster into it's bright and widely scattered members, and provide a better view than can be seen with most telescopes.

[M31 Image] M31 - This is the famous Andomeda Galaxy, our closest galactic neighbor, and the largest, brightest galaxy to be seen in the nothern sky. The ability to see M31 with the naked eye provides a good test of the darkness of your skies. M31 is so large that binoculars provide the best view, allowing the entire galaxy to be seen in one field of view. Look for an elongated patch of light, with a bright, round central core.

[M32 Image] M32 - This is an eliptical companion galaxy to M31. Through a telescope look for a slightly oval ball of fuzz in the same low power field as the core of M31. M32 is very possible to find in binoculars as a star like point of light.

[M110 Image] M110 - M110 - Another eliptical companion galaxy to M31, lying on the opposite side of the core as M32. Through a telescope look for a large, oval patch of light. Although M110 is as bright as M32 it is much larger and thus has a lower surface brightness making it a difficult object in light polluted skies. M110 is a very difficult binocular object requiring dark transparent skies, and trained eyes to have a chance at finding it.

Last Month - M27, M30, M56, M57, M71, M72, M73 
Next Month - M33, M34, M52, M74, M76, M77, M103
                                                Revision 11/95, A.J. Cecce