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Astronomy

20.1 The Interstellar Medium

Astronomy20.1 The Interstellar Medium
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  1. Preface
  2. 1 Science and the Universe: A Brief Tour
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 The Nature of Astronomy
    3. 1.2 The Nature of Science
    4. 1.3 The Laws of Nature
    5. 1.4 Numbers in Astronomy
    6. 1.5 Consequences of Light Travel Time
    7. 1.6 A Tour of the Universe
    8. 1.7 The Universe on the Large Scale
    9. 1.8 The Universe of the Very Small
    10. 1.9 A Conclusion and a Beginning
    11. For Further Exploration
  3. 2 Observing the Sky: The Birth of Astronomy
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 2.1 The Sky Above
    3. 2.2 Ancient Astronomy
    4. 2.3 Astrology and Astronomy
    5. 2.4 The Birth of Modern Astronomy
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  4. 3 Orbits and Gravity
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 3.1 The Laws of Planetary Motion
    3. 3.2 Newton’s Great Synthesis
    4. 3.3 Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation
    5. 3.4 Orbits in the Solar System
    6. 3.5 Motions of Satellites and Spacecraft
    7. 3.6 Gravity with More Than Two Bodies
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  5. 4 Earth, Moon, and Sky
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 4.1 Earth and Sky
    3. 4.2 The Seasons
    4. 4.3 Keeping Time
    5. 4.4 The Calendar
    6. 4.5 Phases and Motions of the Moon
    7. 4.6 Ocean Tides and the Moon
    8. 4.7 Eclipses of the Sun and Moon
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. For Further Exploration
    12. Collaborative Group Activities
    13. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  6. 5 Radiation and Spectra
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 5.1 The Behavior of Light
    3. 5.2 The Electromagnetic Spectrum
    4. 5.3 Spectroscopy in Astronomy
    5. 5.4 The Structure of the Atom
    6. 5.5 Formation of Spectral Lines
    7. 5.6 The Doppler Effect
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  7. 6 Astronomical Instruments
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 6.1 Telescopes
    3. 6.2 Telescopes Today
    4. 6.3 Visible-Light Detectors and Instruments
    5. 6.4 Radio Telescopes
    6. 6.5 Observations outside Earth’s Atmosphere
    7. 6.6 The Future of Large Telescopes
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  8. 7 Other Worlds: An Introduction to the Solar System
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 7.1 Overview of Our Planetary System
    3. 7.2 Composition and Structure of Planets
    4. 7.3 Dating Planetary Surfaces
    5. 7.4 Origin of the Solar System
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  9. 8 Earth as a Planet
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 8.1 The Global Perspective
    3. 8.2 Earth’s Crust
    4. 8.3 Earth’s Atmosphere
    5. 8.4 Life, Chemical Evolution, and Climate Change
    6. 8.5 Cosmic Influences on the Evolution of Earth
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  10. 9 Cratered Worlds
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 9.1 General Properties of the Moon
    3. 9.2 The Lunar Surface
    4. 9.3 Impact Craters
    5. 9.4 The Origin of the Moon
    6. 9.5 Mercury
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  11. 10 Earthlike Planets: Venus and Mars
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 10.1 The Nearest Planets: An Overview
    3. 10.2 The Geology of Venus
    4. 10.3 The Massive Atmosphere of Venus
    5. 10.4 The Geology of Mars
    6. 10.5 Water and Life on Mars
    7. 10.6 Divergent Planetary Evolution
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  12. 11 The Giant Planets
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 11.1 Exploring the Outer Planets
    3. 11.2 The Giant Planets
    4. 11.3 Atmospheres of the Giant Planets
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary
    7. For Further Exploration
    8. Collaborative Group Activities
    9. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  13. 12 Rings, Moons, and Pluto
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 12.1 Ring and Moon Systems Introduced
    3. 12.2 The Galilean Moons of Jupiter
    4. 12.3 Titan and Triton
    5. 12.4 Pluto and Charon
    6. 12.5 Planetary Rings
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  14. 13 Comets and Asteroids: Debris of the Solar System
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 13.1 Asteroids
    3. 13.2 Asteroids and Planetary Defense
    4. 13.3 The “Long-Haired” Comets
    5. 13.4 The Origin and Fate of Comets and Related Objects
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  15. 14 Cosmic Samples and the Origin of the Solar System
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 14.1 Meteors
    3. 14.2 Meteorites: Stones from Heaven
    4. 14.3 Formation of the Solar System
    5. 14.4 Comparison with Other Planetary Systems
    6. 14.5 Planetary Evolution
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  16. 15 The Sun: A Garden-Variety Star
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 15.1 The Structure and Composition of the Sun
    3. 15.2 The Solar Cycle
    4. 15.3 Solar Activity above the Photosphere
    5. 15.4 Space Weather
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  17. 16 The Sun: A Nuclear Powerhouse
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 16.1 Sources of Sunshine: Thermal and Gravitational Energy
    3. 16.2 Mass, Energy, and the Theory of Relativity
    4. 16.3 The Solar Interior: Theory
    5. 16.4 The Solar Interior: Observations
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  18. 17 Analyzing Starlight
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 17.1 The Brightness of Stars
    3. 17.2 Colors of Stars
    4. 17.3 The Spectra of Stars (and Brown Dwarfs)
    5. 17.4 Using Spectra to Measure Stellar Radius, Composition, and Motion
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  19. 18 The Stars: A Celestial Census
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 18.1 A Stellar Census
    3. 18.2 Measuring Stellar Masses
    4. 18.3 Diameters of Stars
    5. 18.4 The H–R Diagram
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  20. 19 Celestial Distances
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 19.1 Fundamental Units of Distance
    3. 19.2 Surveying the Stars
    4. 19.3 Variable Stars: One Key to Cosmic Distances
    5. 19.4 The H–R Diagram and Cosmic Distances
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  21. 20 Between the Stars: Gas and Dust in Space
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 20.1 The Interstellar Medium
    3. 20.2 Interstellar Gas
    4. 20.3 Cosmic Dust
    5. 20.4 Cosmic Rays
    6. 20.5 The Life Cycle of Cosmic Material
    7. 20.6 Interstellar Matter around the Sun
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  22. 21 The Birth of Stars and the Discovery of Planets outside the Solar System
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 21.1 Star Formation
    3. 21.2 The H–R Diagram and the Study of Stellar Evolution
    4. 21.3 Evidence That Planets Form around Other Stars
    5. 21.4 Planets beyond the Solar System: Search and Discovery
    6. 21.5 Exoplanets Everywhere: What We Are Learning
    7. 21.6 New Perspectives on Planet Formation
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  23. 22 Stars from Adolescence to Old Age
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 22.1 Evolution from the Main Sequence to Red Giants
    3. 22.2 Star Clusters
    4. 22.3 Checking Out the Theory
    5. 22.4 Further Evolution of Stars
    6. 22.5 The Evolution of More Massive Stars
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  24. 23 The Death of Stars
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 23.1 The Death of Low-Mass Stars
    3. 23.2 Evolution of Massive Stars: An Explosive Finish
    4. 23.3 Supernova Observations
    5. 23.4 Pulsars and the Discovery of Neutron Stars
    6. 23.5 The Evolution of Binary Star Systems
    7. 23.6 The Mystery of the Gamma-Ray Bursts
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  25. 24 Black Holes and Curved Spacetime
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 24.1 Introducing General Relativity
    3. 24.2 Spacetime and Gravity
    4. 24.3 Tests of General Relativity
    5. 24.4 Time in General Relativity
    6. 24.5 Black Holes
    7. 24.6 Evidence for Black Holes
    8. 24.7 Gravitational Wave Astronomy
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. For Further Exploration
    12. Collaborative Group Activities
    13. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  26. 25 The Milky Way Galaxy
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 25.1 The Architecture of the Galaxy
    3. 25.2 Spiral Structure
    4. 25.3 The Mass of the Galaxy
    5. 25.4 The Center of the Galaxy
    6. 25.5 Stellar Populations in the Galaxy
    7. 25.6 The Formation of the Galaxy
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  27. 26 Galaxies
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 26.1 The Discovery of Galaxies
    3. 26.2 Types of Galaxies
    4. 26.3 Properties of Galaxies
    5. 26.4 The Extragalactic Distance Scale
    6. 26.5 The Expanding Universe
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  28. 27 Active Galaxies, Quasars, and Supermassive Black Holes
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 27.1 Quasars
    3. 27.2 Supermassive Black Holes: What Quasars Really Are
    4. 27.3 Quasars as Probes of Evolution in the Universe
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary
    7. For Further Exploration
    8. Collaborative Group Activities
    9. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  29. 28 The Evolution and Distribution of Galaxies
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 28.1 Observations of Distant Galaxies
    3. 28.2 Galaxy Mergers and Active Galactic Nuclei
    4. 28.3 The Distribution of Galaxies in Space
    5. 28.4 The Challenge of Dark Matter
    6. 28.5 The Formation and Evolution of Galaxies and Structure in the Universe
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  30. 29 The Big Bang
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 29.1 The Age of the Universe
    3. 29.2 A Model of the Universe
    4. 29.3 The Beginning of the Universe
    5. 29.4 The Cosmic Microwave Background
    6. 29.5 What Is the Universe Really Made Of?
    7. 29.6 The Inflationary Universe
    8. 29.7 The Anthropic Principle
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. For Further Exploration
    12. Collaborative Group Activities
    13. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  31. 30 Life in the Universe
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 30.1 The Cosmic Context for Life
    3. 30.2 Astrobiology
    4. 30.3 Searching for Life beyond Earth
    5. 30.4 The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  32. A | How to Study for an Introductory Astronomy Class
  33. B | Astronomy Websites, Images, and Apps
  34. C | Scientific Notation
  35. D | Units Used in Science
  36. E | Some Useful Constants for Astronomy
  37. F | Physical and Orbital Data for the Planets
  38. G | Selected Moons of the Planets
  39. H | Future Total Eclipses
  40. I | The Nearest Stars, Brown Dwarfs, and White Dwarfs
  41. J | The Brightest Twenty Stars
  42. K | The Chemical Elements
  43. L | The Constellations
  44. M | Star Chart and Sky Event Resources
  45. Index

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain how much interstellar matter there is in the Milky Way, and what its typical density is
  • Describe how the interstellar medium is divided into gaseous and solid components

Astronomers refer to all the material between stars as interstellar matter; the entire collection of interstellar matter is called the interstellar medium (ISM). Some interstellar material is concentrated into giant clouds, each of which is known as a nebula (plural “nebulae,” Latin for “clouds”). The best-known nebulae are the ones that we can see glowing or reflecting visible light; there are many pictures of these in this chapter.

Interstellar clouds do not last for the lifetime of the universe. Instead, they are like clouds on Earth, constantly shifting, merging with each other, growing, or dispersing. Some become dense and massive enough to collapse under their own gravity, forming new stars. When stars die, they, in turn, eject some of their material into interstellar space. This material can then form new clouds and begin the cycle over again.

About 99% of the material between the stars is in the form of a gas—that is, it consists of individual atoms or molecules. The most abundant elements in this gas are hydrogen and helium (which we saw are also the most abundant elements in the stars), but the gas also includes other elements. Some of the gas is in the form of molecules—combinations of atoms. The remaining 1% of the interstellar material is solid—frozen particles consisting of many atoms and molecules that are called interstellar grains or interstellar dust (Figure 20.2). A typical dust grain consists of a core of rocklike material (silicates) or graphite surrounded by a mantle of ices; water, methane, and ammonia are probably the most abundant ices.

Various Types of Interstellar Matter. Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpio, is at lower left in this wide-field image. It is surrounded by reddish nebulosity. To the right of Antares is the globular cluster M4. At center left a bright star is surrounded by the blue glow of a reflection nebula, and at center right another bright star is surrounded by red nebulosity. Above these two stars a dark nebula snakes its way across the image, blocking the light from behind. Finally, at top center, a bright star is surrounded by a large area of blue reflection nebulosity, criss-crossed by dark dust lanes.
Figure 20.2 Various Types of Interstellar Matter. The reddish nebulae in this spectacular photograph glow with light emitted by hydrogen atoms. The darkest areas are clouds of dust that block the light from stars behind them. The upper part of the picture is filled with the bluish glow of light reflected from hot stars embedded in the outskirts of a huge, cool cloud of dust and gas. The cool supergiant star Antares can be seen as a big, reddish patch in the lower-left part of the picture. The star is shedding some of its outer atmosphere and is surrounded by a cloud of its own making that reflects the red light of the star. The red nebula in the middle right partially surrounds the star Sigma Scorpii. (To the right of Antares, you can see M4, a much more distant cluster of extremely old stars.) (credit: modification of work by ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2)

If all the interstellar gas within the Galaxy were spread out smoothly, there would be only about one atom of gas per cm3 in interstellar space. (In contrast, the air in the room where you are reading this book has roughly 1019 atoms per cm3.) The dust grains are even scarcer. A km3 of space would contain only a few hundred to a few thousand tiny grains, each typically less than one ten-thousandth of a millimeter in diameter. These numbers are just averages, however, because the gas and dust are distributed in a patchy and irregular way, much as water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere is often concentrated into clouds.

In some interstellar clouds, the density of gas and dust may exceed the average by as much as a thousand times or more, but even this density is more nearly a vacuum than any we can make on Earth. To show what we mean, let’s imagine a vertical tube of air reaching from the ground to the top of Earth’s atmosphere with a cross-section of 1 square meter. Now let us extend the same-size tube from the top of the atmosphere all the way to the edge of the observable universe—over 10 billion light-years away. Long though it is, the second tube would still contain fewer atoms than the one in our planet’s atmosphere.

While the density of interstellar matter is very low, the volume of space in which such matter is found is huge, and so its total mass is substantial. To see why, we must bear in mind that stars occupy only a tiny fraction of the volume of the Milky Way Galaxy. For example, it takes light only about four seconds to travel a distance equal to the diameter of the Sun, but more than four years to travel from the Sun to the nearest star. Even though the spaces among the stars are sparsely populated, there’s a lot of space out there!

Astronomers estimate that the total mass of gas and dust in the Milky Way Galaxy is equal to about 15% of the mass contained in stars. This means that the mass of the interstellar matter in our Galaxy amounts to about 10 billion times the mass of the Sun. There is plenty of raw material in the Galaxy to make generations of new stars and planets (and perhaps even astronomy students).

Example 20.1

Estimating Interstellar Mass You can make a rough estimate of how much interstellar mass our Galaxy contains and also how many new stars could be made from this interstellar matter. All you need to know is how big the Galaxy is and the average density using this formula:

total mass=volume×density of atoms×mass per atomtotal mass=volume×density of atoms×mass per atom

You have to remember to use consistent units—such as meters and kilograms. We will assume that our Galaxy is shaped like a cylinder; the volume of a cylinder equals the area of its base times its height

V=πR2hV=πR2h

where R is the radius of the cylinder and h is its height.

Suppose that the average density of hydrogen gas in our Galaxy is one atom per cm3. Each hydrogen atom has a mass of 1.7 × 10−27 kg. If the Galaxy is a cylinder with a diameter of 100,000 light-years and a height of 300 light-years, what is the mass of this gas? How many solar-mass stars (2.0 × 1030 kg) could be produced from this mass of gas if it were all turned into stars?

SolutionIf the diameter of the Galaxy is 100,000 light-years, then the radius is 50,000 light-years. Recall that 1 light-year = 9.5 × 1012 km = 9.5 × 1017 cm, so the volume of the Galaxy is

V=πR2h=π(50,000×9.5×1017cm)2(300×9.5×1017cm)=2.0×1066cm3V=πR2h=π(50,000×9.5×1017cm)2(300×9.5×1017cm)=2.0×1066cm3

The total mass is therefore

M=V×density of atoms×mass per atomM=V×density of atoms×mass per atom
2.0×1066cm3×(1atom/cm3)×1.7×10–27kg=3.5×1039kg2.0×1066cm3×(1atom/cm3)×1.7×10–27kg=3.5×1039kg

This is sufficient to make

N=M(2.0×1030kg)=1.75×109N=M(2.0×1030kg)=1.75×109

stars equal in mass to the Sun. That’s roughly 2 billion stars.

Check Your Learning You can use the same method to estimate the mass of interstellar gas around the Sun. The distance from the Sun to the nearest other star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light-years. We will see in Interstellar Matter around the Sun that the gas in the immediate vicinity of the Sun is less dense than average, about 0.1 atoms per cm3. What is the total mass of interstellar hydrogen in a sphere centered on the Sun and extending out to Proxima Centauri? How does this compare to the mass of the Sun? It is helpful to remember that the volume of a sphere is related to its radius:

V=(4/3)πR3V=(4/3)πR3

Answer:

The volume of a sphere stretching from the Sun to Proxima Centauri is:
V=(4/3)πR3=(4/3)π(4.2×9.5×1017cm)3=2.7×1056cm3V=(4/3)πR3=(4/3)π(4.2×9.5×1017cm)3=2.7×1056cm3
Therefore, the mass of hydrogen in this sphere is:
M=V×(0.1atom/cm3)×1.7×10–27kg=4.5×1028kgM=V×(0.1atom/cm3)×1.7×10–27kg=4.5×1028kg
This is only (4.5 × 1028 kg)/(2.0 × 1030 kg) = 2.2% the mass of the Sun.

Astronomy Basics

Naming the Nebulae

As you look at the captions for some of the spectacular photographs in this chapter and The Birth of Stars and the Discovery of Planets outside the Solar System, you will notice the variety of names given to the nebulae. A few, which in small telescopes look like something recognizable, are sometimes named after the creatures or objects they resemble. Examples include the Crab, Tarantula, and Keyhole Nebulae. But most have only numbers that are entries in a catalog of astronomical objects.

Perhaps the best-known catalog of nebulae (as well as star clusters and galaxies) was compiled by the French astronomer Charles Messier (1730–1817). Messier’s passion was discovering comets, and his devotion to this cause earned him the nickname “The Comet Ferret” from King Louis XV. When comets are first seen coming toward the Sun, they look like little fuzzy patches of light; in small telescopes, they are easy to confuse with nebulae or with groupings of many stars so far away that their light is all blended together. Time and again, Messier’s heart leapt as he thought he had discovered one of his treasured comets, only to find that he had “merely” observed a nebula or cluster.

In frustration, Messier set out to catalog the position and appearance of over 100 objects that could be mistaken for comets. For him, this list was merely a tool in the far more important work of comet hunting. He would be very surprised if he returned today to discover that no one recalls his comets anymore, but his catalog of “fuzzy things that are not comets” is still widely used. When Figure 20.2 refers to M4, it denotes the fourth entry in Messier’s list.

A far more extensive listing was compiled under the title of the New General Catalog (NGC) of Nebulae and Star Clusters in 1888 by John Dreyer, working at the observatory in Armagh, Ireland. He based his compilation on the work of William Herschel and his son John, plus many other observers who followed them. With the addition of two further listings (called the Index Catalogs), Dreyer’s compilation eventually included 13,000 objects. Astronomers today still use his NGC numbers when referring to most nebulae and star groups.

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