Program for the January 8, 2016, OAS meeting

Charles Messier: More than Marathons

By Janean Shane


Galileo! Charles Messier! The Herschels! Sir Patrick Caldwell Moore! Halton C. Arp! These are astronomers who all happen to share the distinction of having an Astronomical League observing award program named after them. I thought it would be fun to learn more about these folks, and to share my findings with the club. First up is Charles Messier. The Messier Observing Club was formed in 1967, and it was the very first of all of the clubs to be formed. The object of this program, of course, is to observe and describe all 110 of the deep sky objects in the Messier catalog. For my presentation, I’ll touch on some of the main highlights of Charles Messier’s life journey. He was raised mostly by an older brother, and for a time, worked for him as a clerk. Later, along came a primarily clerical job with an astronomer, which of course led to his becoming an accomplished astronomer himself. Messier eventually became a frequent publisher of his observations of all types of astronomical events. Throughout this life journey, we’ll follow the observations of the Crab Nebula from ancient Anasazi petroglyphs, later becoming entry number one in Messier’s catalog, and finally on to the Crab as imaged by the Hubble telescope. We’ll view some of Messier’s excellent artwork in his catalog illustrations. We’ll also see how Messier’s observing technique bested his astronomer-boss’s erroneous calculations in spotting the predicted periodic return of Halley’s Comet in 1757.

Speaker Bio:

Janean Shane, native of Salina Kansas, was bitten by the astronomy bug in high school when her parents gave her a Tasco 3” reflector telescope for Christmas. With little or no available help or “mentors” at the time, her interest waned somewhat after she had viewed the moon’s craters, Saturn’ rings, and Jupiter and its moons and thought she had “seen everything.” Fast-forward to 2007, when Janean and her husband, Kendahl, joined the Omaha Astronomical Society. Janean credits the fun, help, and camaraderie of fellow club members for re-kindling a strong interest and curiosity about what-all is really “out there” to see. Participation in the Astronomical League’s variety of “Observing Clubs” is also a great motivator. Janean confesses that basking in the glory of wearing Observing Club award pins is fun, but she finds that completion of a Club’s requirements, just for the pin and certificate, is not really important. The enjoyment of just “dabbling” in the wide variety of topics covered in the various Clubs is reward enough!