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Messier or Caldwell?


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Hi Guys,

I was just woundering which is the best list to use I have seen alot of Messier numbers all over the forum, I understand that the Messier list was done for mainly the northern hemisphere, but on my GoTo they have Messier, Caldwell,NGC. to be fair I have Messier list on my smart phone, so I can look up what I am looking at.

Thanks Guys

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Why not try all? Depending on your latitude you should be able to do all the Messier for starters, most people will then attempt some other catalouge, for instance the Lunar 100 or the Caldwell.

The NGC is something a bit more demanding as it contains 1000's of objects as I'm sure you know. :)

good luck with them :eek:

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There is the Herschel 400 which is "the best of NGC."

It does include about 10 Messier objects (dont know why) and most of the Caldwell objects I think.

It's because most of the Messiers and Caldwell lists are also included in the NGC. Note that Messier's list was merely a list of "objects to avoid" for comet-hunters, and the Caldwell list is Patrick's creation: a list, the same size as Messier's, of good objects to observe, but with less northern bias.

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Start with the Messiers - they're bright and easy (relatively speaking) and of historical significance, being the first ever catalogue of DSOs (made by Messier in the 18th century).


The Caldwell list was created by Patrick Moore as something that would cover both northern and southern hemispheres. Many of them are "showpiece" objects (e.g. Double Cluster, Eskimo nebula) but there are also some that are pretty hard. Try them by all means but expect a mixed bag.


The NGC (New General Catalogue) was created in the 19th century as a way of cataloguing all the DSOs discovered up to that time (an extension of John Herschel's earlier "General Catalogue", or GC). Nearly all the Messiers and Caldwells are in the NGC - in other words the NGC contains some easy showpiece objects, and a lot of fairly easy ones, so don't be put off just because something is called NGC. I find that most NGCs I try for with my 12" (at a dark site) are visible if I try hard enough.

If it's called IC (Index Catalogue) then it's probably going to be hard, and if it's UGC then you may need a very big scope (though I've seen a number of UGCs with my 12").

I don't know what CNGC is, but there are various online versions of the NGC and the most authoritative are at the NGC/IC Project, or at the homepage of Wolfgang Steinicke.



The Herschel 400 was a list created some years ago as a selection from the 2500 objects discovered in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by William Herschel. There are some Messiers in there because although Herschel specifically excluded Messier objects from his catalogue, he gave numbers to things that he thought were separate objects but were really contained within Messiers (e.g. bright patches in M31 and M33).


The Herschel 400 list was never intended as a "best of NGC". There are various lists claiming to do that - I personally like the one prepared by Alan Dyer for the Royal Astronomical Societyy of Canada.


Edited by acey
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