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A Book Comparison

The Messier Album by John H. Mallas and Evered Kreimer, Sky Publishing Corporation, 1978.


The Next Step : Finding and Viewing Messier's Objects by Ken Graun, Ken Press, 2005.

by Duane Dunkerson

Mr. Mallas and Mr. Kreimer wrote a book for the observer. Mr. Kreimer's photographs of the Messiers accompanied the vital descriptions and drawings of these objects by Mr. Mallas. The photographs did not overwhelm the descriptions. I find that the photographs are supplements. By contrast, Graun, let me call him Ken, puts the photographs foremost; they are to speak for themselves. What descriptions Ken puts in are not necessary; they are opinion. Ken writes a book for the photographer. Compare the photo to the description or the description to the photo.

The book by Messieurs Mallas and Kreimer was published in 1978 and 1979 but it reads and has an aura of an earlier time. For Ken, 1978 is an earlier time, and his book is of today, no backtracking. Neither of the books are only photographs and descriptions of the Messiers. Each book has additional material. Owen Gingerich wrote the beginning of the Mallas and Kreimer book. He also provides information and images for Ken's book. Ken's book is wider than it is tall. The book by Mallas and Kreimer was the reverse in width and height. Ken's book has photos that support the various sections of the book. The book is well laid out and colorful. The book by Mallas and Kreimer was mostly black and white except for an end of the 1979 book section of color photographs of the Messiers done by eleven amateurs. They used various means to obtain the photos: indirect color, filter combinations, Fujichrome R100 film, a low temperature camera, a telecompressor, and film soaked in hydrogen gas.

Of course, recourse to such elaborate means was beyond Messier. For Mallas and Kreimer, Gingerich in his "Messier and His Catalogue" section wrote that Messier used over a dozen telescopes. His favorite was a 104 power Gregorian reflector. The effective comparative aperture as a refractor would be 3.5 inches. Mr. Mallas used a 4 inch f/15 Unitron refractor. These refractors are now famous. Ken uses a 4 inch TeleVue 102 f/8.6 refractor for the eye and a 4 inch TeleVue 101 f/5.4 refractor for the photos. Mr. Kreimer used a 12.5 inch f/7 Cave reflector. The Cave is another now famous telescope.

Gingerich in his opening for Mallas and Kreimer (M and K) noted Messier had a fascination for comets that now is insignificant compared to studies of the Universe. For Messier, the nebulae (some as representatives of the Universe) were trivial. Up to 1750 there had been 50 comets for all of humankind. Messier would observe more than 50, discovering 15. Ken writes that Messier compiled the first catalog of deep sky objects. Messier's catalog has stayed with us because one can't observe comets all that often and because the Messier deep sky objects have assumed more importance for astronomy and because they have an intrinsic diverse beauty for those using smaller telescopes. They are big, bright, and splendid.

Gingerich noted Messier wanted to become a member of the Académie Royale des Sciences but scholars there thought him to be a mere observer. Messier had observed other than comets - occultations, transits, and eclipses. He wrote little about his observations and then listed them. Ken places Messier in the Age of Enlightenment with its civil unrest and with trash and people in the streets. The French Revolution's officials, wrote Gingerich, took away Messier's pensions and salary. A comet he discovered in 1793 had its orbit calculated by Saron. A few days later Saron suffered death by guillotine. Ken thinks Messier in this Age was a nerd, not a disparaged nerd to be sure, since Ken describes himself as having been a nerd and mentions nerds often become doctors, lawyers, and scientists.

Messier did finally get into the Academy. He immediately sent that august body his Catalogue des Nébuleuses et des amas d' Etoiles, que l'on découvre parmi des Etoiles fixes, sur l' horizon de Paris. This was the start of what we now know as the "Messier objects" of the Messier catalog. Mr. Mallas and Mr. Kreimer's book has a section that reproduces in facsimile the Messier catalog as published in the Connaissance des Temps. This reproduction shows date, M number, coordinates, size of object, and descriptions by Messier.

Gingerich related how Messier had come across patches in the sky that the unsuspecting could think were comets. These patches were annoyances to Messier. Then later, Messier tried to find patches for their own sake. Comet hunting was still involved. Comet hunting continued and deep sky discoveries thereby occurred. Ken notes some common misconceptions about Messier. The most common is that Messier's entire catalog had objects that could be comets but were not. No, writes Ken, Messier changed the task to finding deep sky objects. A second misconception, according to Ken, is that Messier was only a comet hunter. This disregards Messier's observational efforts in other areas of astronomy and in meteorology.

Gingerich cited the mystery of M47 and M48 since they do not relate to deep sky objects at the coordinates in the sky Messier had listed. M47 is most likely NGC2422 and M48 is probably NGC2548. Messier's reference stars used for assigned coordinates could have been misjudged by him and an arithmetic error could account for a wrong coordinate. Also, M91 cannot be found and is probably M58 found again. Then, too, M102 presents a difficulty. M102 is identical with M101.

More numbering concerns are related by G. Flammarion who found another object in Virgo that had been listed in M's personal papers. So we got M104. Then Hogg revealed a letter by Méchain, an associate of Messier, listing 6 objects not in the M list up to that time. Three more objects were well enough identified to encourage extending the list to M105, M106, and M107. Flammarion and Hogg didn't think a nebula around Gamma Ursae Majoris and nebulae near Beta Ursae Majoris should be included. Gingerich wanted M108 (NGC3556) and M108 (NGC3992) added to the M list if you concede M104 to M107. Messier probably never observed the additions. Contemporaries of Messier did not accept M numbers beyond 103. Even so, M110 has been proposed since Messier knew of it. It is NGC 205 in Andromeda.

Ken works up yet more additions. He is for putting M111 and M112 on the list. These two derive from Ken's Mystery of the Missing Double Cluster, the ones in Perseus. So why not add more and more? Ken wants 111 and 112 as honorary members of the list. What is the mystery in the Mystery? Why, since the Double Cluster in Perseus was known since the time of Ptolemy at least, didn't Messier acknowledge them?

Mr. Mallas and Mr. Kreimer go through M110. Their book wasn't put together in short order. M examined the Messiers from 1958 to 1962. This he did at Covina, Calif, with the 4 inch Unitron. Covina had good enough sky except to the West where the glow of LA could be seen. A smog could be present until midnight. M did most of his observing after midnight. Aperture and magnification are differing if one wanted a better view for detail and resolution. As M and K have it - "The visual descriptions and drawings (by M) presented in this album are not conservative. They represent what an experienced amateur might see with an instrument of modest size under good conditions". Usually the foreground stars were removed. Galactic (open) clusters are the subjects of only a few drawings since the photographic (by K) and visual appearances are very much alike. M45, the Pleiades, are an exception.

Mr. Kreimer did the photos of the album. He did his photography from Prescott, Ariz, at 5,400 feet. Population growth ruined his sky, especially to the South. His Cave reflector was on his house. The best possible photographs were not the intent; rather they desired to have photographs that compared favorably to the drawings. The main procedure was "to bring to the amateur astronomer a homogenous collection of visual characterizations and photographs of the objects in Charles Messier's famous catalogue". This served the purpose for amateurs then. Ken's photos are all 20 minute exposures on 400 speed negative film.

For now, Ken does his observations from near Tucson. He went 30 miles away from Tucson. His photos are taken between September and June. Fear was a factor. "Today, few of us feel safe alone." He has buddies at one site. At another site he is observing from just outside at a friend's house. Astrofear was not mentioned by M and K. Presumably, Messier did not suffer from such, either.

Ken has a section on finding and observing Messiers and deep sky objects. He mentions light pollution, telescope design and size, telescope mounts, magnifications and field of view. Star hop figures are included to get to the Messiers. Star charts are included too. In M and K, Gingerich contributed an end section entitled "Hints for Beginning Observers". He noted at least 12 Messiers can be seen at any time of the year. Galaxies are usually difficult to observe. A simple star chart is included.

All that has gone before was preliminary. Now arrive the photos, descriptions, and facts about the Messiers. M and K had coordinates from epoch 1950 though 2000 coordinates are at the back of the book. Basic facts were given, the NCG description was included, and a description of the visual appearance was presented. A star chart for each Messier was for reference but the location of the Messiers was indicated in the large and the star field was of the small. Ken has Messier's original description and also the NGC description from NCG 2000.0 by Sinnott. Ken gives the best observing months for the Messiers. Ken gives facts about each Messier. These facts have been drawn from Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion, NGC 2000.0, the Sky and Telescope Messier Card, The Messier Objects by O'Meara, the Observers' Handbook 2004, and from articles in Sky and Telescope. Mostly these facts update M and K as to distance of objects and their magnitude.

Ken's individual descriptions are done for 48X. They are kept short so observers can form their own impressions. Mr. Mallas and Mr. Kreimer did not wish to straitjacket an observer into their impressions either. Mr. Mallas had his account for each drawing for an Messier supportive of what you see or he saw. Mr. Mallas also mentioned from time to time the binocular view or the view in his finder scope. Both had a fondness for variables to be found in a Messier object.

In ending, I list the terms Ken uses to describe what he sees. Then I list what M and K used for terminology. Ken's terms : noticeable, magnificent, visually unique, a show-stopper, very pretty, a favorite, nice, pretty and nice, incredible, just plain nice, interesting subtleties, interesting patterns, a dime, smudge, impressive, and pops out.

Lesser description, lesser object.

For M and K : butterfly, dim patch, beautiful, grand, filament, grainy, glow, great extent, complex, devoid, knotted, impressive, pear-shaped, fine, loosely concentrated, luminous, magnificent, mottling, bar, hook, careful, interesting, lobes, circumference, favorable, detached, delicate, nonuniform, hue, junction, compact diamond, string, glorious, bat in flight, fan, hanging, cucumber, haze, dipper, attractive, irregular , flattened, fading gray, difficult, extended, marvelous, bunch, classic, clump, coarse, halo, broad, nodules, oval, exaggerated, featureless, brilliant, curdled, fluffy, film fat, compact, lustrous, condensation, elusive, slightly greenish, not an illusion, stubby, spider, triangular, showpiece, spangled, streaked, rifted, vivid, revealed, uneven, threshold, superb, well defined, strange, streamer, wedge, spilt, veer, sprawl, surprising, striking, texture, spurious, subdued, sharp, remarkable, ragged, slight, sliver, saucer-shaped.

For their use and their existence they referred to different skies, different educations, and different minds. All of these are gone; to read them now constitutes time travel.











Copyright © 2008
by Duane Dunkerson

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