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Celebrate with Charles

The Messier catalog offers 109 ways to mark your birthday.

How old are you? There’s a reason I’m asking. We’re going to look at your “Messier birthday object,” the one whose number matches your age. For example, I’ll turn 70 next month (no old-age comments, please) so my Messier birthday object will be M70, a globular star cluster in Sagittarius. Since I’m not yet 70, I still celebrate M69, another Sagittarius globular.

What about you? I’ll assume no baby or child genius reads this column, so we’ll skip the Crab Nebula (M1) and globular clusters M2 through M5, and begin with age 6. It corresponds to the beautiful open cluster M6 in Scorpius. Another stunning open cluster in the Scorpion, M7, follows. Up next are the Lagoon Nebula (M8) in Sagittarius, globular clusters M9 and M10 in Ophiuchus, the Wild Duck Cluster (M11) in Scutum, and a third Ophiuchus globular, M12.

You enter your teens with the fabulous globular cluster M13 in Hercules. Two more globulars follow (M14 in Ophiuchus and M15 in Pegasus), and then comes the iconic Eagle Nebula (M16) in Serpens and the Omega Nebula (M17) in Sagittarius. The teens close out with open cluster M18 in Sagittarius and another Ophiuchus globular, M19.

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