Avid comet hunter Charles Messier crafted drawings of various celestial objects and published them as a book, "Catalogue des Nébuleuses et des Amas d'Étoiles," in the 1770s. Messier cataloged these bright objects visible in the Northern Hemisphere because he was frustrated when he observed things that he thought were comets due to their brightness — but they weren't. The first version of his book contained 45 objects, while a second printing expanded it to 80. By the time of his death, there were 103 objects Messier warned comet watchers to be wary of.
Since then, we've added another seven objects, and we know what many of those bright bodies are: galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. We still commonly refer to these objects at Messier or M objects, followed by the number that Messier used in his notations. While they may not be comets, they're still stunning. The Hubble Space Telescope has been taking snapshots of Messier objects for a while now, and it's captured 93 of the 110 objects. Twelve new images were released March 16, and you can take in their beauty below.
Messier 58 was one of the first galaxies recognized to have a spiral shape. While its core appears bright, it's actually dimmer than many other spiral galaxies. Still, M58 is an easy sight to behold. It's best viewed in May, with an 8-inch or larger telescope.
And, no, your computer didn't have a hiccup and fail to load the complete image. The stair-step appearance of this image is because Hubble was tasked with focusing on the galaxy's nucleus, which you can see perfectly framed by the blacked-out portions of the image.
About 60 million light-years from Earth, Messier 59 sits in the Virgo galaxy cluster. German astronomer Johann Gottfried Koehler discovered M59 in 1779 while observing Comet Bode. You can catch sight of M59 in May, but with very little detail.
About half of M59 is visible in this image plus some globular clusters, which are bright points of light here. Several other galaxies are also visible.
Messier 62 has an extremely dense core of 150,000 stars and is one of the most oddly shaped globular clusters in the Milky Way. It's possible its irregular shape is due to being so close to the galactic core where the push and pull of the galaxy displace many of the cluster's stars.
Most of the cluster is pictured here, with the core featured near the top right (it's hard to miss). Hubble snapped these images to help astronomers better understand globular clusters.
The majority of Messier 75's stars are located around its nucleus. Some 400,000 are in this globular cluster, and it's believed to be about 13 billion years old.
M75 is located in the western part of Sagittarius. Thanks to its brightness, it's relatively easy to spot with only binoculars in the August sky, but given its compact nature, it will look like pretty much any star. If you use a 10-inch telescope or larger, you'll be able to make out some of the stars in the cluster.
Astronomers aren't sure what kind of galaxy Messier 86 is. It's either an elliptical galaxy — a galaxy with little structure and more 3-D in nature than flatter spiral galaxies — or a lenticular galaxy, which is a cross between an elliptical and spiral galaxy.
This Hubble image features about half of the galaxy and its bright nucleus. Unlike much of the Virgo galaxy cluster, which is drifting away from the Milky Way, M86 is drifting closer to us. This is because M86 is located on the far side of the cluster and is heading closer to the center. Don't worry, though. M86 is still 52 million light-years from Earth.
Containing some 400 billion stars and located 47 million light-years from Earth, Messier 88 is easily viewed under clear conditions with binoculars, but telescopes will give you much more detail. Look for it in May.
Hubble requires multiple filters to capture images in color, so this image is in black and white. About half the galaxy is visible in this view.
Messier 89 is an elliptical galaxy located in the Virgo galaxy cluster. M89 houses some 100 billion stars and more than 2,000 globular clusters. Telescopes that are eight inches or larger can spot M89 as a faint ball of light in May, in the constellation Virgo.
This photograph features most of M89, including its bright central nucleus. You can also see a spiral galaxy a little bit below the core.
This vibrant spiral galaxy located in the Virgo cluster contains about 1 trillion stars and thousands of globular clusters. Much of this is situated in the galaxy's inner disk region; Messier 90's arms contain very little star formation. This is possibly due to interaction with neighboring galaxies stripping away the materials to do so.
M90 is visible during clear and dark nights in May. Large telescopes will showcase the galaxy's arms and bright core.
Messier 95 is found in the Leo constellation, around 33 million light-years from Earth. The arms of this barred spiral galaxy are tightly wound around the core, almost circular in shape. This Hubble image features the central bar of stars in the upper left and one of those nearly circular arms in the lower right.
M95 is visible in April. Binoculars will only yield a hazy smudge, according to NASA, so break out a nice telescope to see more details.
This stair-step view of Messier 98 highlights the galaxy's central core. While the galaxy is a member of Virgo's galaxy cluster, it appears in the constellation Coma Berenices in May with a medium-sized telescope.
M98 is notable for its high amounts of neutral hydrogen gas and interstellar dust. Because of this, the galaxy has many star-forming regions in its arms and nucleus.
Dubbed the Surfboard Galaxy because when you view Messier 108 from a telescope, it is seen almost edge-on, with no apparent bulge or obvious core. While Messier and Méchain have notes about the galaxy, it wasn't officially recorded as a Messier object until 1953.
M108 is one of the brightest galaxies in the Ursa Major cluster, and it's located just under the Big Dipper. While it's visible year-round in the Northern Hemisphere, M108 is best viewed in April through a telescope eight inches or larger.
Many elliptical galaxies likes Messier 110 are considered "dead" due to a lack of star formation regions. However, M110 shows some signs of young blue stars at its center, which is visible to the lower right of the image. Still, even without many young stars, M110 has about 10 billion stars.
M110 is located in the constellation Andromeda and is a satellite galaxy of Andromeda galaxy, itself a Messier object. This elliptical galaxy is easy to spot with a good-sized telescope in November.