The NASA and ESA Hubble space telescope is on a captivating quest to image all 110 space objects listed in a catalog that originated with French astronomer Charles Messier. Messier's catalog dates back to the 1700s and is full of gorgeous galaxies, fascinating star clusters and stately nebulae.
NASA released 12 new Messier catalog Hubble images on March 16. Hubble has now observed 93 of the 110 objects as of early 2018.
While most of the galaxies found in the Virgo cluster are moving away from our home galaxy of the Milky Way, Messier 90 is actually heading in our direction. Don't worry. It's still about 59 million light-years away from our planet.
Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI, and V. Rubin (Carnegie Institution of Washington), D. Maoz (Tel Aviv University/Wise Observatory) and D. Fisher (University of Maryland)
Bonus: Pillars of Creation
Before we dive deeper into the 12 new Messier catalog images from Hubble, it's worth looking back at one of the telescope's most famous views of a Messier object.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/J. Hester, P. Scowen (Arizona State U.)
Messier 75 star cluster
This round, dense collection of stars is known as the globular star cluster Messier 75, which astronomer Charles Messier added to his astronomical catalog in 1780. The center of the cluster houses 400,000 stars.
M75 is located in the constellation Sagittarius and can be seen from Earth with binoculars and telescopes. NASA used Hubble space telescope cameras to create this composite image.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI, and G. Piotto (Università degli Studi di Padova) and E. Noyola (Max Planck Institut für extraterrestrische Physik)
Messier 58, a spiral galaxy
Astronomer Charles Messier discovered the spiral galaxy M58 in 1779. NASA says it "was one of the first galaxies recognized to have a spiral shape." M58 resides in the constellation Virgo at a far-flung distance of about 62 million light-years from Earth.
The missing black chunks are due to the design of Hubble's camera. "It shows about half of M58, with the galaxy's core and arms filling the image," NASA says.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI and D. Maoz (Tel Aviv University/Wise Observatory)
Barred spiral galaxy M95
NASA's Hubble telescope got a good look at this scenic barred spiral galaxy known as Messier 95. It's one of 110 space objects included in the Messier catalog, which is named for French astronomer Charles Messier.
M95 resides in the Leo constellation at a distance of 33 million light-years from Earth. "Its spiral arms host a flurry of star birth activity and sparkle with the light of countless young, blue stars," NASA says.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI, and D. Calzetti (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and R. Chandar (University of Toledo)
Messier 86 glows
This glowing image from NASA's Hubble telescope shows the Messier 86 galaxy, which has an elliptical shape. Astronomer Charles Messier first discovered M86 in 1781.
"Of all the galaxies in Messier's catalog, M86 is moving the fastest in our direction but is still approximately 52 million light-years away from Earth," NASA says.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI, and S. Faber (University of California, Santa Cruz) and P. Côté (Dominion Astrophysical Observatory)
A beautiful spiral
Messier 88 is a classic spiral galaxy with a luminous central region that really stands out in this Hubble space telescope image. "M88 contains around 400 billion stars and is traveling away from our galaxy," NASA notes.
Astronomer Charles Messier discovered M88 in 1781 on a particularly busy night when he also found eight other objects that he added to his famous catalog. The Hubble space telescope is working on imaging all 110 space objects in the Messier catalog.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI and M. Stiavelli (STScI)
A Virgo galaxy
A bright center shines in this Hubble space telescope image of the Messier 98 galaxy. "Because of the high amounts of gas and dust, there are numerous star-forming regions in the galaxy, especially in its nucleus and arms," NASA says.
The M98 galaxy is one of the faintest of the 110 objects in the Messier catalog, which contains galaxies, nebulae and star clusters.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI and V. Rubin (Carnegie Institution of Washington)
Messier 59, an elliptical galaxy
A very intimidating black hole at the center of the Messier 59 galaxy measures in at about 270 million times as massive as our sun. M59 is in the Virgo constellation. Only about half of M59 can be seen in this image, NASA notes.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI, and W. Jaffe (Sterrewacht Leiden) and P. Côté (Dominion Astrophysical Observatory)
If you're into "irregularly shaped globular clusters," then Messier 62 is the place for you. M62's dense core hosts 150,000 stars. A globular cluster is a tightly packed spherical collection of stars. Astronomer Charles Messier discovered M62 in 1771.
NASA released this Hubble image of M62 in March 2018 as an addition to its scenic collection of astronomical objects listed in the Messier catalog.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI, and S. Anderson (University of Washington) and J. Chaname (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)
A galaxy discovered in 1781
Astronomer Charles Messier discovered the elliptical galaxy M89 in 1781. It was one of eight galaxies he spotted in the Virgo cluster that year. A supermassive black hole sits at its center.
"It was the first galaxy discovered to have an extended envelope, which means that it has a larger region of light surrounding it than other elliptical galaxies, most likely because of its high number of stars and globular clusters," NASA notes.
This Hubble space telescope image shows most of the galaxy and you can even spot the edge of a spiral galaxy lower in the picture.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI, and M. Franx (Universiteit Leiden) and S. Faber (University of California, Santa Cruz)
The Messier 108 galaxy has a fun nickname: the Surfboard galaxy. When seen by telescope, the barred spiral galaxy has no obvious core or bulge, which gives it a passing resemblance to a surfboard shape.
This image is part of the Hubble space telescope's project imaging the 110 objects listed in the Messier catalog. M108 can be found in the Ursa Major constellation.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI and G. Illingworth (University of California, Santa Cruz)
This might look like a glitter-flecked linoleum tile, but it's actually a Hubble space telescope view of the Messier 110 galaxy. NASA describes it as an elliptical galaxy with a smooth and nearly featureless structure.
The dark splotches are huge clouds of dust and gas. Astronomer Charles Messier discovered M110 in 1773. As of early 2018, Hubble has imaged 93 out of 110 objects listed in the Messier catalog, which includes galaxies and nebulae.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:NASA, ESA, STScI and D. Geisler (Universidad de Concepción)
NASA's Hubble telescope delivers stunning new space pictures