If you have budding astronomers in your homeschool, you should be sure to introduce them to the Messier Objects, 110 of the most beautiful objects in the sky.
Charles Messier (1730–1817) was a French astronomer who loved comets. Over the course of his many hours of comet-hunting, he realized he was often being led astray by an assortment of fuzzy blobs in the heavens that look like they might be comets, but never move. (Comets move against the background stars, just like planets.)
To assist himself and other astronomers, Messier decided to compile a list of these “fuzzy blobs to be ignored when looking for comets,” and what he inadvertently ended up compiling, from our modern point of view, was a catalog of some of the most beautiful objects in the sky. In his honor, these 110 major nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters are today called Messier Objects.
There is a wonderful series of ten-minute videos being produced by the University of Nottingham in Britain that will cover all the great Messier Objects — their site is called DeepSkyVideos.com, and this is the introduction to the entire series:
If you and your students were to watch your way through this series — two or three a week, say — you’d have the equivalent of an entire course in astronomy. And if you have a small telescope or even a pair of binoculars, you can go out in your backyard and locate some of these beautiful “not-comets” on your own. 🔭
What celestial discoveries have you made in your homeschool lately? 😊
❡ Watchers of the skies: Teaching your students to recognize the constellations is one of the simplest and most enduring gifts you can give them. The planisphere on the front of your River Houses star atlas (riverhouses.org/books) will let you dial up the northern hemisphere sky for any night of the year, and the descriptions and maps of each constellation will point out the highlights — including the Messier Objects and their locations. Find a dark-sky spot near you this month and spend some quality homeschool time beneath the starry vault. 🌠
❡ Calendars for the year: Print your own River Houses homeschooling calendar for the whole year at riverhouses.org/calendars and follow along with us! 😊