on the comets discovered and observed
at the Observatory of the Navy, Hotel de Cluny,
between and including that of 1758
and the second of 1805.
Almost all discovered and found
by strolling through the sky with refractors.
By Charles Messier
[No. 1; C/1758 K1; 1758 De la Nux]
Comet observed in the head of Taurus, from August 14, to November 2;
31 days of observation; the detail of observations is printed with a chart,
Memoires of the Ac. des Sc., year 1759. M. Pingré
reports in his Cometographie that M. de la Nux saw it at the isle of
Bourbon (now Réunion)) on May 26; it was seen from London on June 18,
and near Dresden on July 25 and 27. This comet was very difficult to find
with a telescope [refractor]
of two feet [focal length, FL]. The comet of 1682, which was expected to
reappear, according to Halley, in 1758 or 1759, already kept me busy.
By the invitation of Joseph de l'Isle, my illustrious master, as well as that
of M. de la Lande, I searched for it in the sky with telescopes, and I had
knowledge of the usage of this research, which made me discover this one,
which I observed until its disappearance, and these observations are,
so to speak, the only ones which exist.
[No. 2; 1P/1758 Y1; 1759 I Palitzsch, 1P/Halley]
Famous comet, the return of that of 1682. I discovered it on January 21 after
two years of research with a Newtonian telescope of 4 1/2 feet [FL]; it
appeared below the southern fish [of Pisces] and above the equator, crossed
the equator, passed through Aquarius and the tail of Capricornus, where it
ceased its apparition in the rays of the Sun; it left in the morning of
May 1, below Hydra, traversed Hydra near its node and ceased to appear in
Sextans; it was observed 13 days in the first branch of its orbit [before
perihelion], and 34 days in the second [after perihelion]; the memoir of the
observations with plates can be found in the volume of the
Ac. des Sc. for the year 1760.
It was discovered, 27 days before me, without having had knowledge, at
Aprohlis, near Dresden, by a farmer named Palitzsch, on the 25th of December
1758, and on the following January 24, at Leipzig, an ephemeris was printed
of that comet, for following it from January 28 to May 13; Palitzsch made
himself wellknown to astronomers by this important discovery; he has died
in 1788. This famous comet, predicted by Halley in 1705, to re-appear at the
end of 1758 or in the beginning of 1759, caused Mr. Clairaut to do many
calculations for approaching closer its return, fixing its perihelion
passage in the middle of the month April, and it passed it on March 12, 1759,
about one month former than his prediction. One can find great detail on this
subject in the history of the academy.
[No. 3; C/1760 A1; 1759 III Chevalier, "Great Comet"]
Comet discovered on January 8, near the sword of Orion, observed until the
30th of the same month; 6 days of observation; it was discovered by simple
view [with naked eye]. The memoir was printed with a chart, in the vol. of
the Ac. for 1772. This comet was seen at Lisbon on January 7, by Abbe
Chevalier, who has died at Prague during the revolution of France.
[No. 4; C/1760 B1; 1759 II Messier]
2nd comet, discovered on January 26 between Crater and Hydra, observed until
March 18, in Lynx; 22 days of observation; the memoir and the chart, [are] in
the vol. of the ac., 1st part for 1772.
[No. 5; C/1762 K1; 1762 Klinkenberg]
Comet, observed from May 28 to July 5, [starting] from the head of Lynx to
that of Leo; 20 days of observations; the memoir and the chart are printed in
the volume V of Savans étrangers.
M. Klinkenberg has discovered it at la Haye on May 17.
[No. 6; C/1763 S1; 1763 Messier]
Comet discovered on September 28, observed until November 24. It began to
appear in Serpens near the hand of Hercules, moved to the north and descended
to the right leg of Virgo; 29 days of observation; the memoir and the chart
[are] in the volume of the ac. for 1774.
[No. 7; C/1764 A1; 1764 Messier]
Comet discovered with simple view [the naked eye] on January 3; observed until
February 11, it started its apparition between Draco and Hercules, and ceased to
be visible near the head of Pegasus; 16 days of observations; the memoir and the
chart of its track, [are] in the volume of the ac. for the year 1771.
[No. 8; C/1766 E1; 1766 I Messier]
Comet discovered on March 8, when searching the Satellite which has been
pretended to be seen at Venus; for this research I employed an excellent
Gregorian telescope of 30 inches [pouces]
focal length, lent by M. le President de Saron, the large mirror of 6 inches
diameter, and a very good achromatic refractor of 5 feet focal length,
I didn't see anything of the satellite, and I discovered with this refractor,
at a small distance from Venus, a comet, faint in light, which I observed
between the 8th of March and the 15th of the same month in the place of
Pisces; 8 days of observation. The memoir of the observations and the Chart,
in the volume of the ac. for the year 1773.
[No. 9; D/1766 G1; 1766 II Helfenzrieder-Messier]
2nd comet, discovered with simple view, on April 8, between the back of Aries
and the Fly [Northern Fly, extinct constellation and now part of Aries], with
a tail about 8 degrees long: five days of observation from April 8 to 12
inclusive; the memoir of the observations and the chart [are] in the volume of
the academy for 1773.
[No. 10; C/1769 P1; 1769 Messier]
Great comet, discovered with a refractor on August 8, near the two stars of
9th magnitude A.S. above the head of Cetus, below and close to the Ecliptic;
observed in both branches of its orbit, 21 days in the first branch [before
perihelion], and 21 days in the second branch [after perihelion], where it
ceased its apparition on the first of December near the node of the tail of
Serpens; in its first branch, it passed below Aries, through the feet of
Taurus, traversed Orion, Monoceros, the Equator and entered in the Solar rays
near Hydra, below the Node. It re-appeared in the morning, when it left the
rays of the sun, on October 24 near Serpens, which it traversed as well as
Ophiuchus, the Equator, and ceased its apparition near the node of the tail of
Serpens above and very close to the Equator. The memoir and the plates are
printed in the volume of the academy, for the year 1775.
This comet has been one of the greater that have been observed. Its tail, in
the night of September 9 to 10, had a length of 60 degrees; M. Pingré,
who was in the sea, between Tenerife and Cádiz, found it on
September 11 of 90 degrees extent; and M. de la Nux, at the island of
Bourbon, measured it in the morning of September 11 and found it at
97 degrees. Many calculations have been made of
this great Comet by Leonard Euler and Lexell, for finding its true elliptical
orbit and its period.
(Note) The great Comet of 1769. From 3 selected observations, Euler and
Lexell, found the revolution of this comet could be 449 years to 519 in its
extremes, supposing 1 [arc] minute of error in these 3 observations.
Pingré found 1231 1/3 years after the observations of August 21,
October 25 and December 1.
In a letter addressed to the Bureau of Longitudes of October 5, 1805,
M. Bessel announced a great work about this Comet, which can be found in
the 4th supplement of the Ephemeris of Berlin: Says that its orbit is an
ellipse, of which the period is between 1692 and 2673 years and the most
probable period of 2090, with the errors of plus or minus not exceeding
5 [arc] seconds.
[No. 11; D/1770 L1; 1770 I Messier; P/Lexell]
Comet, which I discovered on June 14, at about eleven o'clock in the evening,
with the refractor for the night, near Scutum, observed in the first branch of
its orbit until July 3, when it entered the rays of the Sun, after having
crossed Scutum, the Equator, the tail of Serpens, the second branch of the
Milky Way, Lyra, passed closely enough and above the two poles, the Giraffe
[Camelopardalis], and ceased to be observed between Auriga and Lynx. 14 days
of observation in this first branch of the orbit; the comet re-appeared in the
morning when it left the rays of the Sun on August 3, near and below the
Ecliptic and Saturn to which it was close, traversed Cancer, Gemini and ceased
to be observed in the legs of Castor, in the morning of October 3; 33 days of
observation in this second branch. The printed memoir and the charts [are] in
the volume of the academy, 1770, page 597.
This comet is the one which approached nearest to the Earth, and which has
kept most busy the astronomers and geometricians with the research of its
true elliptical orbit, and with the research of its orbital period;
Mr. Lexell was kept busy as one of the first when he had communication of my
observations, as well as Messrs. Prosperin, [.]edder, Pingré, [and]
Mr. Lexell found, that according his work, this comet had a period of about
5 1/2 years. He spoke on October 13, 1778, at the academy of
Petersburg, on reflections about orbital periods of comets in general and
especially of that of 1770, and in another memoir in 1773, about the period
of the great Comet observed in 1769.
(note): Lexell has found its period to be 5 1/2 years. Prosperin has
found the same. Burckhardt, the same in the last place, he has been given
the prize; his memoir is in the 1st term of 1806 of the Institute.
This short period of 5 1/2 years appeared so extraordinary that the Academy
of Sciences demanded new research with a prize which it proposed and which
was awarded in 1794. M. Burckardt has made a quantity of calculations and has
found that it could not be visible at that time.
This singular Comet didn't re-appear when it was searched
5 1/2 years in 5 1/2 years and it has not been seen before 1770.
The Academy of Sciences, which existed since April 22, 1699 at the Louvre,
was abandoned with all the other academies in the revolution by a decree of
August 8, 1793. A new corporation of scientists was created in December 1795
under the title, Institut National, in place of all the abandoned Academies.
(one will see at the end of this notice of the Comets: the origin of the
ac. des Sc.).
The new corps proposed a new prize for the same research, which was awarded
in a public session on January 5, 1801. M. Burckhardt applied; he requested
from me the originals of my observations, which he kept for two years; two
memoirs were given for the concurrency; he himself won the prize, which was
to be a kilogram of gold.
He found himself with Mr. Lexell at the same time.
This comet, so extraordinary, kept me busy with its research between 1770
and 1796, without being able to see it again; M. Burckhardt gave reasons in
his memoir: It is a Comet which he never had observed, and maybe one could
well find others of those which I have observed, which will be also in the
same situation not to re-appear any more. The solid nucleus of comets must
be of very small volume, as I remarked at all those which I have observed.
The four new small planets discovered 1801, 1802 and 1804 (which are well
remarkable) for not being noticed before these years, especially by
Herschel, but their smallness is the reason.
[No. 12; C/1771 A1; 1770 II "Great Comet"]
1st Comet. I discovered this Comet on January 10 with the refractor, between
the head of Hydra and Canis Minor, I saw it afterwards with the naked eye,
with a tail of several degrees; I determined its position; the sky was
covered in the following nights, on the 16th, the sky cleared, it was
necessary to search again, one single day of observation had not been able
to indicate to me the route it would take. I found it in the club of Orion,
its light always rather small [faint]; I ceased to observe it on the 20th,
between the horns of Taurus and very near to the planet Mars, 4 days of
observation. The memoir and the chart are in the volume of the ac.
[No. 13; C/1771 G1; 1771 Messier]
2nd Comet, discovered with a refractor on April 1, observed until June 15.
It began to appear in Aries, passed through Gemini and disappeared in Leo,
at small distance from Regulus. 48 days of observations. The memoir and the
chart of its track are in the volume of the Academy, for the year 1777.
[No. 14; 3D/1772 E1; 1772 Montaigne, P/Biela]
Comet, found with the refractor, observed between March 26 and April 3,
4 days of observations. It was discovered at Limoges by M. Montaigne on
March 8, in Eridanus, and ceased to appear below the feet of Monoceros; the
memoir and the chart, [are] in the volume of the ac. for the year
[No. 15; C/1773 T1; 1773 Messier]
Comet, discovered with a refractor for the night, on October 12; observed
until April 14, 1774, these are more than 5 months, which have provided 71
days of observations, one of the longest which were staying visible above
the horizon; it began to appear near Sextans, passed through Leo, Coma
Berenicis, Canes Venatici, the tail of Ursa Major and ceased
extremity of the tail of Draco.
The memoir of the observations and the chart of its track, [are] in the
volume of the ac. for the year 1774.
[No. 16; C/1774 P1; 1774 Montaigne]
Comet, found with the refractor, observed during the months August, September
and October; it began to appear between the Reindeer [stars between
Camelopardalis and Cassiopeia], Cepheus and Cassiopeia, passed through
Lacerta and Andromeda, traversed Pegasus and ceased to appear at the knee of
Aquarius. 41 days of observations. The memoir of the observations, and the
chart of its track [are] in the vol. of the ac. for the year 1775.
M. Montaigne discovered this Comet on the eleventh of April at Limoges.
Note: It is on the occasion of this Comet of long duration that M. de Lalande
created a new constellation on his celestial globe of on foot [diameter]
which he published in 1775, which he named the Messier, and which he
placed between Cassiopeia, Cepheus and Camelopardalis. See his
Astronomie, first volume, article 699, 3rd edition.
[No. 17; C/1779 A1; 1779 Bode]
Comet discovered with the night refractor, on January 19, observed until
May 19, five months of observation, which have provided 63 days for
determining its location; it began to appear between Vulpecula and Delphinus,
traversed Vulpecula, the two branches of Milky Way, the lower part of Lyra,
Hercules, Corona [Borealis], Bootes and ceased its apparition in the left
wing of Virgo.
It had been seen at Berlin by M. Bode on January 6, but one hasn't had
knowledge of it before the 19th. The memoir of the observations and the chart
of its track, [are] in the volume of the ac. for the year 1779.
[C/1780 U1; 1780II Montaigne-Olbers]
Comet discovered at Limoges, by M. Montaigne in the evening of October 18,
near the star T [Tau?] which is at the right hand of the Serpent Holder
[Ophiuchus], he continued to observe it without bad time on the 20th and 26th
of the same month; these three days of observations which he sent me are the
only which are known, one could derive nothing about its [orbital] elements.
One can find detail about this Comet and about my research to find it, in the
vol. of the ac. for the year 1780, p. 515.
[No. 18; C/1780 U2; 1780 I Messier]
2nd Comet. Kept busy by the research of the Comet of 1770, the return of
which had been announced for re-apparition of 5 to 6 years; after my research,
I toured the sky with the refractor and I discovered a Comet on October 27
which began to appear at the beginning of the tail of Leo, which I observed
until November 28, when it ceased its apparition in the second section of the
rear of Ursa Major; 13 days of observations; the memoir and the chart [are]
in the vol. of the ac. 1780.
[No. 19; C/1781 M1; 1781 I Méchain]
Comet discovered by M. Méchain, at the great Observatory in the
night of June 28 and 29; he informed me and I observed it form the 30th
[of June] to July 16. It began to appear in Ursa Major, passed above Leo Minor,
and ceased to be observed in Leo; 14 days of observation. The memoir of the
observations and the celestial chart with its track [are] in the vol. of the
ac. for the year 1781.
[No. 20; C/1781 T1; 1781 II Méchain]
2nd Comet, discovered by M. Méchain on October 9 at about 4
o'clock in the morning, he made me share his discovery and I observed it on
the next day, the 10th, and continued to observe it until November 5. It
began to apparition in Cancer, near the Ecliptic, passed through the tail of
Lynx, Ursa Major, and ceased to be observed near the star Lambda in the tail
of Draco. 12 days of observation. The memoir and the chart of its track [are]
in the vol. of the ac. for 1781.
[No. 21; D/1783 W1; 1783 Pigott, P/Pigott]
Comet, seen by M. Méchain, on November 26, discovered on the 19th in
the head of Cetus by M. Pigott at York in England. I observed it from the 27th,
until December 21; 13 days of observation, from the head of Cetus, it passed
through Aries, close to the star Alpha in the large Triangle [Triangulum -
Messier emphasizes "large" or "Triangulum Major" because at that time there was
a now extinct "Triangulum Minor" also], and I ceased to see it at several
degrees above it. The memoir of the observations and the celestial chart of its
track, [are] in the vol. of the ac. for the year 1783.
[No. 22; C/1783 X1; 1784 Cassini, "Great comet"]
Comet, discovered on January 24 by M. de Cassini, at the Observatory with the
naked eye, and near the tail of Aries; on the next day, the 25th,
M. de Cassini made me participate in his discovery; the same evening of the
25th, the sky got covered and stayed covered the day and the night until
February 3; one single indication couldn't announce the path it would follow,
it required to be searched with the refractor, I found it in the belly of the
southern fish [of Pisces] near the equator, I observed it from February 3 to
May 25. 13 days of observation; from the southern Fish, it passed through
Pegasus, and I ceased to observe it between Andromeda and Lacerta. The memoir
of the observations and the chart of its track [are] in the vol. of the
ac. for the year 1785.
[probably not a comet]
Comet, discovered at Malta, by M. le Chevalier d'Angos, on April 11 in the
constellation of the Fox [Vulpecula]. He wrote me on April 20, his letter
reached me on May 14, in it he
me that this comet would be very faint; he first took it for a nebula.
His letter contained two positions of the Comet of the 11th and the 15th
of April; these are the only observations sent, and no others are known.
On May 15, and several nights which followed, I looked for this Comet with
my great achromatic refractor of 3 feet and 1/2; I passed through the
constellation of the Fox [Vulpecula] and very
without discovering anything.
I found well in the Fox [Vulpecula] the beautiful nebula without stars
which I had discovered on July 12, 1764
[M27] and it is in the neighborhood of this
nebula that M. d'Angos has seen this Comet; he sent me afterwards the
elements deduced from his observations. I have printed these details of
large length in the vol. of the ac. for the year 1784. Page 326.
[No. 23; C/1785 A1; 1785 I Messier-Méchain]
Comet, discovered with the refractor on January 7, at the neck of the Whale
[Cetus], observed in the same constellation until the 16th of the same month.
6 days of observation. On the 9th, it was observed on the Equator! The memoir
and the chart of its track are printed in the vol. of the ac. for the
[No. 24; C/1785 E1; 1785 II Méchain]
2nd Comet, discovered at the Observatory by M. Méchain, on March 11 in the
evening, on the 12th, he announced it at the Academy, on the 13th, I found it
with my great refractor and I observed it, it appeared at the left shoulder of
sensibly visible with the naked eye; on April 4, 5, 6, 9 and 11,
it had a tail of about 9 or 10 degrees of length; I observed it from March 13
to April 16, below the wing of Pegasus. 14 days of observation. The memoir
and the celestial chart, [are] in the vol. of the ac. for the year 1785.
[No. 25; 2P/1786 B1; 1786 I Méchain, P/Encke]
Comet, discovered at the Observatory by M. Méchain, on January 17,
evening; on the 18th, he gave me his observation; on the 19th, I observed
it near the horizon, when setting, in a great dusk, I compared it three times
with Beta Aquarii, this is my only observation, the sky was covered
afterwards, there are none but these two observations, that of
M. Méchain of the 17th and mine of the 19th. It was hoped to see the
Comet again in the morning after leaving the rays of the Sun, I looked for
it, and this was useless; I have printed these details, in the volume of the
ac. for 1786.
[No. 26; C/1786 P1; 1786 II Herschel]
2nd Comet, discovered by Miss Caroline Herschel, at Slough, near Windsor in
England; this comet was announced at the academy by a letter of M. Blagden,
in a rather vague manner, in the Great Bear [Ursa Major]. Its movement was
not known, it required to be searched, I found it on August 11 with a night
in the head of the Hair of Berenice [Coma Berenices]; I observed it
until October 26. 43 days of observations. It passed through the
constellations, the Hair of Berenice [Coma Berenices], the hind legs of the
southern Hunting Dog [of Canes Venatici], Bootes, between the Crown [Corona
Borealis] and the Head of the Serpent [Serpens Caput], Hercules, and ceased
to be observable between the Head of the Serpent Holder [Ophiuchus] and the
right hand of Hercules. The memoir of the observations and the celestial
chart of its track, [are] printed in the vol. of the ac. for the year
[No. 27; C/1787 G1; 1787 Méchain]
Comet, discovered at the Observatory by M. Méchain, on April 10 in the
evening, on the 11th, he gave me his position and in the evening I observed
this Comet, in the Bull [Taurus], very near to the Ecliptic, and continued
to observe it until May 20; only 6 days of observations because of bad
weather; it passed by the Pleiades, above the Fly [Musca Borealis; now part
of Aries], below the Small Triangle [Triangulum Minor; now between Triangulum
and Aries], and ceased to be observed in the head of the Ram [Aries].
The memoir and the celestial chart, [are] in the vol. of the ac. for
the year 1787.
[No. 28; C/1788 W1; 1788 I Messier]
Comet, discovered in the night of November 25 and 26, in the right shank of
the great Bear [Ursa Major], observed until December 29; 20 nights of
observations; from the Great Bear [Ursa Major], it passed close by the
[North] celestial pole, close to the Pole Star, through the right hand of
Cepheus and ceased to be observed in the wing of Pegasus. The observations
were very difficult to perform, because of the great height of the Comet
above the horizon, but what made it even more inconvenient, was that I
observed this Comet from my Observatory, without fire, during the greatest
winter which is known and for its duration, because the cold made my two
mercury thermometers descend on December 31, 7 3/4 o'clock in the morning
[7:45 am] at 18 degrees and 1/2, and 18 degrees 3/4 below zero, the ladder
divisions at 85 steps of the ice of boiling water.
The memoir of my observations and a summary of this great winter, [are]
printed in the vol. of the ac. for the year 1789 and the celestial
chart drawn with the apparent track of this comet in the vol. which followed
[No. 29; 35P/1788 Y1; 1788 II Herschel, P/Herschel-Rigollet]
2nd Comet discovered at Slough by Caroline Herschel, on December 21, I wasn't
informed of this comet until January 3, the indication was vague, in the
neighborhood of Beta Lyrae; I searched it with the night refractor on January
3 and 4, 4 hours and a half in the morning, I couldn't have its position until
the 4th in the evening. It was above Lyra, and a second determination on
the 6th; bad weather and fog prevented me to see it again. M. Méchain
observed it again on the 15th and the 18th below the Dragon [Draco]; I have
printed these observations and a chart, in the vol. of the ac. of 1789.
[No. 30; C/1790 A1; 1790 I Herschel]
Comet, discovered at Slough, by Caroline Herschel, on January 7, near the
Swan [Cygnus], I was informed of this discovery on the 18th of the month,
I looked for it with a refractor, and on the 19th in the evening, I found
it above the beautiful star Markab; I determined its position from
this [star], and on the 20th, the sky covered itself in the evening;
I could see it again on the 21st, but the chimneys
Messrs. Cassini and Méchain saw it from the Observatory and observed
it. It ceased to be observed in Pegasus. The observations and a chart of its
track, [are] in the vol. of the ac. of 1790.
[No. 31; 8P/1790 A2; 1790 II Méchain, P/Tuttle]
2nd Comet, discovered at the Observatory by M. Méchain, on January 9;
on the 10th, he gave me the position, and in the evening I found it with a
night refractor, without being able to determine its position, because of the
clouds, but on the 11th its position was known, it appeared above the back of
the Whale [Cetus], near the Equator. It ceased to be observed in the Whale
[Cetus]; 7 days of observations. The memoir of the observations and the
celestial chart, [are] in the vol. of the ac. of 1790.
[No. 32; C/1790 H1; 1790 III Herschel]
3rd Comet, discovered at Slough, by Miss Herschel, on April 17, between the
head and the right arm of Andromeda. M. Maskeline shared this discovery with
M. Méchain, who announced it to me. In the night of May 1 and 2, I
looked for the Comet with my achromatic refractor which I directed to the
star Alpha of Andromeda, and I found the Comet on the parallel of the
beautiful nebula in the girdle of this constellation, and I continued to
observe it until June 29; 45 days of observations. It passed through the
following constellations, Cassiopeia, the stars of Messier [the constellation
invented by Lalande], the Giraffe [Camelopardalis], the head and the feet of
the great Bear [Ursa Major], the Lion [Leo] and ceased to be observed below
and near the Ecliptic. The memoir of the observations and the celestial chart
of the track of this comet, [are] in the vol. of the ac. des Sc. for
the year 1790. The last volume of this beautiful and rich collection which
the revolution has made discontinued, when abandoning the academy of Sciences
by a decree issued on August 8, 1793, by the National Convention, in the
report of the citizen Grégoire.
Mr. Baily, in his History of Modern Astronomy, page 78, announces the
return of two comets, the first observed in 1552, previously in 1264, due to
reappear in 1848. The second observed in 1661, previously in 1532, due to
reappear in 1790. The academy proposed for a prize in 1782, the research of
the orbit of the comet and the comet 1532-1661 which was to reappear in 1790.
Méchain achieved the prize, and proved that the comet, observed two times in
1532 and 1661, were two different comets, and it would not be expected in 1790.
Despite this announce, the astronomers searched for the Comet in 1790; they
discovered three and none of the three was that predicted before Méchain. In
general, the return of Comets appears well uncertain, with the exception of
that predicted by Halley of 1682, observed in 1759, but that of 1770, which
didn't return again with the same elements and the same period of 3 1/2 years,
leaves the theories about Comets well uncertain with respect to their returns.
Series of Comets, not published as observed by Mr. Messier
[No. 33; C/1791 X1; 1792 I Herschel]
Comet discovered at Slough, by Miss Herschel, on December 15, in the Lizard
[Lacerta]; on the announce of this discovery, I looked for it with a
refractor; it has been found on December 26, I observed it until January 28,
1792, when it ceased to appear below Pegasus. 12 days of observations.
[No. 34; C/1793 A1; 1792 II Gregory-Méchain]
Comet, discovered on January 10 at fort de Mont-Jouy, near Barcelona, by M.
Méchain; it appeared on the 10th, at simple view [unaided eye], very
near to the pole of the Ecliptic; the announce of this discovery was sent in
the newspapers, I looked for it with a refractor; when having found it, I
observed it between February 1 and the 14th of the same month; 6 days of
observations; from the pole of the Ecliptic, it passed through the tail of
the Dragon [Draco], Cepheus, Cassiopeia, the legs of Andromeda, the head of
the Ram [Aries], the Ecliptic, the Equator, the head of the Whale [Cetus] and
ceased to be observed below this constellation (a).
(a) a beautiful sequence of observations made by M. Méchain, between
January 10 and February 11, is found in the 6th volume of the 1st class of
[probably not a comet]
2nd Comet, discovered at Tarbes on May 17, by the Chevalier d'Angos, in the
wing of the Raven [Corvus], and ceased to be observed in the tail of Hydra:
The announce was made to M. de Lalande and through the newspapers, how it
was discovered with the unaided eye; I looked for it from my observatory
with a refractor on May 26, I found only in this part of the sky two nebulae
which can be found in my catalog as the numbers 68 and 83.
M. d'Angos affirmed that he observed it on 3 days, May 17, 23, and 24, and
he has sent the determinations to M. de Lalande. These are the only
observations which are known.
[No. 35; C/1793 S1; 1793 II Perny]
3rd Comet, discovered by the great Observatory by M. Perny, on September 24
around 8:30 pm, in Cassiopeia near the star Epsilon. It was found with the
refractor, I observed it between September 27 and December 8; 25 days of
observations. It passed through Cassiopeia, traversed the legs of Cepheus,
and ceased to be observed in the last node of the Dragon [Draco], near the
pole of the Ecliptic. Mr. Perny announced this Comet on October 13, 1793 at
the public assembly of the Licée of the royal palace,
he named it Comet of the republic because the republican Calendar, the year
of which begins on September 22, the comet has been discovered on
[No. 36; C/1793 S2; 1793 I Messier]
4th Comet, discovered with the refractor, on September 27 in the evening,
between the stars Delta of the Serpent [Serpens] and Alpha of Ophiuchus, it
appeared at the extension of the nebula which is in the girdle of Hercules;
it is round and brilliant, reported in my catalog of nebulae under the
No. 13; it traversed the Equator and ceased to be observed on October 11
below the stars Delta and Epsilon of Ophiuchus, entering into the rays of
the Sun. I communicated the observations which I had made to M. de Saron for
calculating the elements, and it was in his prison, at the hotel de la
Force, that he calculated them, and he announced to me that this comet would
reappear in the morning when it was leaving the rays of the Sun in the
constellation Hydra, with enough light to be seen with refractors.
His prediction was verified; I found the Comet, with the refractor, on
December 29 in the morning, below the node of Hydra, it crossed the Equator,
and ceased to be observed on January 7, 1794 in the Small Dog [Canis Minor].
The Academy of Sciences, abandoned by a decree of August 8, 1793, existed
through more than a century. It left to the posterity immense works of all
the Sciences which M. de Lalande has made known in an advertisement which is
in the head of the last vol. of the ac. 1790.
It will be perhaps interesting to see there some details on the origin and the
formation of this famous organization until its abolition produced by the
revolution, and replacement two years later, in 1795, under a new title:
Institut National des Sciences et Arts
[National Institute of Sciences and Arts].
More than 50 years before 1666 some scholars assembled at the father
[....., unreadable]. In the following the meetings became more regular at
M. Monmer [?] and at Monsieur Theverot [?], where they were joined by foreign
scientists. M. de Colbert then gave the project of an academy of Sciences in
1666: Those who were
for history had to meet on the Mondays and Thursdays; those for literature
on Tuesdays and Fridays; for mathematics and physics, on Wednesdays and
Saturdays, and the first Thursday of each month, a general meeting. This
project has not at all been carried out. The French Academy, established by
Cardinal Richelieu, demanded to make a separate corporation and it didn't
stay the mathematicians, 6 or 7 in number, who met at the library of M.
Colbert; in the month of June 1666, there were also nominated 7 Physicists and
5 deputies, M. Duhamel, the Secretary. The King established pensions and a
fund for the experiments. On December 22, 1666, the Academy assembled for the
first time; it was there decided that the Geometers and Physicists would form
an own corporation, which on Wednesdays should deal with Geometry and on
Saturdays, with Physics.
In 1699, the King gave a second and durable birth to the ac. by a new
regulation of 50 articles dated January 26, 1699, which was read by
M. l'Abbé Bignon [?], who had been a member, on the following
February 4, in the small location where the meetings took place in the
Library of the King; this place became too small, the King gave to the
Academy a new spacious and magnificent home in the Louvre. The first meeting
there was public, when it occurred on April 22, 1699. The sessions there have
been exactly following the Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 3 o'clock to
5 o'clock in the same room, regardless if particular or public meetings,
until the abolishment on August 8, 1793, which made a residence of 94 years
when the academy regularly hold their meetings there.
[2P/1795 V1, 1795 Herschel, P/Encke]
Comet, discovered at Berlin by M. Bode, on November 11, previously
discovered by M. Carle, who had notified M. Bode. It was discovered at Paris
at the Observatory by M. Bouvard on the 14th of the same month, near
Hercules and he observed it for 4 days. I was in the countryside when it
[No. 37; C/1797 P1; 1797 Bouvard-Herschel-Lee]
Comet, discovered at the Observatory, by M. Bouvard, with simple view
[the unaided eye], on August 14; M. Flaugerques at Viviers discovered it
two days later. I observed it from August 16 to the 30th of the same month,
13 days of observations; it began to appear near the head of Lynx, passed
through that of the Giraffe [Camelopardalis], below the pole of the world
[North Celestial Pole], through the last node of Draco, below the pole of
the Ecliptic, the lower end of the head of the Dragon [Draco], Hercules,
and ceased to be observed at the head of the Serpent Holder [Ophiuchus]. Its
movement was considerable, in 13 days, from August 14 to 30, it crossed 113
degrees of declination, which is a bit close to one third of the sky; this
is one of the Comets observed which have had the most motion in declination;
its movement in right ascension was 31 degrees.
[No. 38; C/1798 G1; 1798 I Messier]
Comet, discovered on April 12, at 8 o'clock in the evening, near and on the
parallel of the Pleiades, observed until May 24 in the evening, when it
ceased to be observed in the head of the great Bear [Ursa Major], near the
star Alpha and the two nebulae which are close to each other
[M81 and M82];
27 days of observations. M. Burckhardt has published the elements of this
comet, and a part of my observations in the Connaissance des tems for the
year 9, page 496.
I may be permitted to make a confession: A brother who was left to me, whom
I had not seen for 26 years, and a niece of 14 years which I didn't know,
arrived at me for staying there on April 12 at 10 o'clock in the morning and
at 8 o'clock in the evening, I discovered this Comet; a remarkable epoch for
having, and for my family.
[No. 39; C/1798 X1; 1798 II Bouvard]
Comet, discovered at the Observatory on December 6 in the evening, by M.
Bouvard; I observed it the following day, the 7th, and I continued to
observe it until the 12th of the same month; 4 days of observations. It
began to appear in Hercules, traversed the two branches of the Milky Way,
Antinous, and ceased top be observed near the left arm of Aquarius and the
stars Epsilon and Mu.
[No. 40; C/1799 P1; 1799 I Méchain]
Comet, discovered at the observatory, on August 7, by M. Méchain; I
observed it on the 10th in the morning, and I continued to observe it until
October 25; 44 days of observations. It began to appear below Lynx, and
ceased to be observed on the parallel of the star Eta, of 3rd magnitude, of
[No. 41; C/1799 Y1; 1799II Méchain]
Comet, discovered at the Observatory, by M. Méchain on December 26,
near the western arm of Ophiuchus; I observed it on the 28th in the morning,
and I continued to observe it until January 6, 1800, 5 days of observations.
Pons discovered the 7 last Comets at the observatory of Marseille.
The 1st on July 11, 1801, him was given 600 f. by M. Lalande.
The 2nd, on August 24, 1802, 100 f. by M. Lalande;
the 3rd, on March 7, 1804, 100 f. idem.
The 4th on October 20, 1805, 100 f. and 300 f. which gave him the
Minister of the Interior (Champagny).
The 5th, on November 9, 1806, discovered, observed at Paris at the
observatory from November 9 until December 19, 9 days of observations.
The 6th, on September 20, 1807, which became the most beautiful
because of its duration since the great [one] observed in 1769 (see
mem. de l'academie 1775). M. de Lalande was dead on April 4 of the
same year amd the 100 f. ceased to be given.
The 7th Comet which Pons discovered, near the neck of the Giraffe
[Camelopardalis], which has resembled a nebula, was observed at the
observatory of Marseille from March 25 until April 1, 1808.
[No. 42; C/1801 N1; 1801 Pons, Pons-Messier-Méchain-Bouvard]
Remarkable comet, for having been discovered with refractors, on the same
day and almost the same time by four astronomers, when crossing the sky
with the telescopes, on July 12 about 10 o'clock in the evening; at Paris,
at the Observatory, by Messrs. Méchain, and Bouvard separately, by me,
at my observatory, and by M. Pons at Marseille; this one [Pons] saw it in the
night of the 11th and 12th, and took it for a nebula, but in the evening
of the 12th, he recognized that it was a Comet, by the change of its
position. It was discovered in the Giraffe [Camelopardalis], I observed it
from the 12th to the 21st in the evening, 5 days of observations, it
ceased to be observed in the small Lion [Leo Minor]; M. de Lalande, the
oldest of the astronomers, and the most zealous for the advancement of the
Science, has deposited at a notary, before the discovery of this Comet, a
sum of 600 francs, which should be given to the one who first discovered a
Comet: The observer of Marseille, M. Pons, who discovered this one, took
this sum which the 3 others gave up for him. M. de Lalande consequently
took an obligation to give 100 francs for a same discovery and M. Pons has
already been gratified since for several times, and the minister gave him
several gratifications. He was also given a sum of 10,000 francs, which was
placed in 1802 for an annual prize of a pension in fovor of astronomy, for
being given to the most useful discovery, or the best memoir in this part
of the sciences; he hoped that others made advanrage. v. the
Bibliographie astronomique (astronomical Bibliography) by M.......
The discovery of such a small Comet by four astronomers on the same day
makes looking evidently how one has looked for them before me with
telescopes crossing the sky, how I have done it since 1758, one would have
known a well greater number which have escaped by their smallness of light;
those which have been seen before 1758 had to appear to the unaided eye,
or discovered by accident with telescopes employed for other observations,
as is the nebula in the head of Aquarius [M2], discovered when observing
the comet of 1746, by M. Maraldi; I discovered in the same way a nebula in
the southern horn of the Bull [Taurus] on August 28, 1758, when observing
the comet of that year; this nebula resembled the Comet in the form, the
light and the size, it was this nebula which resembled them which gave me
the first idea to search Comets with telescopes by crossing through the sky,
and I have discovered a large number.
[No. 43; C/1802 Q1; 1802 Pons]
Comet, discovered at the Observatory by M. Méchain, on August 28 in
the evening. It was seen at Marseille by M. Pons, 2 days before M.
Méchain, which provided him with the 100 francs promised by M. de
Lalande. I observed this Comet from August 30 to September 5; it began to
appear in the Serpent Holder [Ophiuchus], and ceased to be observed in
Hercules; 7 days of observations.
[No. 44; C/1804 E1; 1804 Pons]
Comet, discovered at Marseille by M. Pons, in the night of March 7 and 8; at
the Paris Observatory by M. Bouvard, in the night of the 10th and 11th; at
Bremen, by Olbers on the 12th. I observed it from March 11 to 17. I still
saw it on March 31, without being able to observe it; 6 days of observations.
It began to appear near the Equator between the Balance [Libra] and the
Virgin, ceased to appear in Bootes; my observations are printed in the
connaissance des tems for the years 15, page 374.
[2P/1805 U1; 1805 Herschel, P/Encke]
Comet, discovered at the Observatory by M. Bouvard, on October 20 in the
morning between the stars Gamma and Zeta in the paw of the Great Bear
M. Pons, at Marseille, discovered it in the same night on the 20th, at 5
o'clock in the morning; it was also discovered in the same night in Germany.
I saw it on the 21st at 4 o'clock in the morning, without being able to
determine its position, because of my eyesight, becoming extremely faint,
since more than 6 months and it hasn't the appearance that it comes back
for resuming to run celestial observations.
[3D/1805 V1; 1806I Pons, P/Biela]
Comet, discovered at Marseille by M. Pons on November 9 in Andromeda,
discovered with a refractor, the minister: 300 f. gratification.
M. Bouv[ier]. At the Observatory discovered it 5 days later, on the 14th,
and observed it on the 21st. Seen C. des T. [Connaissance des Tems]
1810, page 298. Because of the faintness of my eyesight, I have not seen
[C/1806 V1; 1806II Pons]
Comet, discovered at Marseille by M. Pons with the refractor on November 9
in the morning; it was very small, formless and without a visible nucleus.
M. de Lalande, who was in correspondence with all astronomers, communicated
the discovery of this comet to M. Bouvard who observed it at the Observatory;
always because of my eyesight, I haven't observed this comet, the 97th, the
6th which Pons discovered, the last 100 f. which gave him Lalande, who died
on April 4, 1807 at 2 o'clock in the morning.
[C/1807 R1; 1807 Pons, "Great Comet"]
Comet, discovered with the refractor at the observatory of Marseille by M.
Pons on September 20 in the evening. he saw it afterwards with the naked eye;
it appeared in the Virgin near the horizon. Its discovery was announced at
the Bureau de Longitudes by a letter of M. Thulis, where it was read on the
30th. This comet became very beautiful, and stayed beautiful during a large
number of days and was seen all around the world, it was marked in the sky
by a nucleus of great luminosity which it enveloped, and from which came out
a very clear, very extended tail, which could have 4 or 5 degrees or more
and which let see through it many small [faint] stars (it is said in the
Connaissance des Tems for 1809, page 494, that this comet was the most
beautiful which has appeared since sixty years, one had to say since 38
years, which is since that which appeared in 1769, the greatest which has
been observed which had a tail of 97 degrees and which fixed the birth of
Napoleon-the-Great, Emperor of the French and King of Italy. I have presented
the printed memoir of the observations to His Majesty on February 14, 1808
and which is found inserted in the volume of the academy of Sciences, year
1775, p. 392).
This beautiful comet of 1807 which attracted the views of the public in the
evenings, also all the night, united the world for the view. My eyesight
became still fainter and worse than in 1805 which took away the hope to
observe it with care. Nevertheless, I investigated it with a night refractor
and I marked its configuration with the neighboring stars from October 19 to
the 26th of the same month. Afterwards, I observed it more exactly with my
great achromatic refractor, equipped with its micrometer, from November 3
until January 26, 1808. At these observations, I have made use of help
for the first time during all my observations by a person who counted at the
clock and marked the divisions of the Instrument which my eyes could no more
perceive; the observations which I gave of this beautiful and great Comet
which appeared during 5 months, one hour, Comet, during good weather,
informally for observing during its bit of movement, elevating itself to the
pole of the world [North Celestial Pole],
producing in all the observatories in Europe numerous and good observations.
The nucleus of this beautiful Comet has presented to some astronomers an
observation worth seeing and publishing, so here is it:
I have observed on November 3 and 9 with a [reflecting] telescope of
two meters length and have seen the nucleus, round and of uniform light,
I have pain to believe in this observation, such as in that of M. Winn of the
nucleus of the Comet of 1769, he had seen with one observing the phases of
Venus, it is to say the nucleus
(see memoir of the academy of 1769, page 434).
In all the Comets I have observed, I have always seen the nucleus of great
Comets surrounded by a more or less vivid light, without being terminated,
and when I report in my observations the diameters of the nuclei of comets
[an unreadable line follows].
M. de Laplace in his Méchanique Céleste [Celestial Mechanics],
volume 4, Chapter III, page 229, says that the masses of Comets are of an
excessive smallness; who on the Comet of 1770, observed in the two
branches of its orbit, and which is that which has most closely approached
the earth, says: "we can be sure that the mass of this comet is no more
than one five thousandth [1/5000] of that of the Moon".
And I am well of the opinion of this famous geometer, that the nucleus, or
the diameter of the solid matter of Comets is of an extreme smallness and
almost impossible to see a diameter terminated by a round circle and of
Monday, May 11, 1807. Communicated to M. Bossut the concept of the Note on
my Comets. Handed over on the 25th of the same month. He told me one has
made usage of it with praise.
[26P/1808 C1; 1808 III Pons, P/Grigg-Skjellerup]
comet discovered at the Observatory of Marseille by M. Pons near the neck
of the Giraffe [Camelopardalis]; from March 26 to April 1, the light of
the Comet stayed the same without any notable change, the manner with which
this faint Comet met difficult and little sure observations. This Comet was
announced at the Bureau des Longitudes and in the papers. At Paris, it was
not believed to exist and in one of the Journals of M. de Zach, one finds
observations made in Germany which confirm the discovery of this Comet by
M. Pons. My sight which faded more and more prevented me from searching
These 8 last comets discovered at the observatory of Marseille by Pons and
observed also all by M. Thulis, astronomer, director of the observatory,
carries the number of Comets of which we know to 100 after the catalog
of Comets, inserted in l'Astronomie by M. de Lalande.
M. Pons has received the gratifications of the Government and of M. de Lalande
for all these discoveries which have excited his zeal to research Comets which
without him mostly would not have been observed and M. Pons has been awarded
the rights of the prize in 1808 by the Institute after the foundation which
has been made by M. de Lalande for the progress of astronomy (see memoir of
the Institute, volume V, page 250).
This prize 1808 will be awarded by the Instit., for the 5th time; the 1st was
awarded on the 1st Messidor of the year 11 to M. Olbers for having discov. the
Planet Pallas in the year 10.
The second prize to M. Piazzi, for having discov., on January 1, 1801, the
The 3rd prize to Mr. Harding, for having discovered the Planet Juno.
The 4th prize which became the second to be attributed to M. Olbers for having
discovered on March 29, 1807, the Planet Vesta.
The 5th prize of 1808 seemed to belong to M. Pons, I had proposed
he made to decide otherwise, the Institute at its public session on January 2,
1809 gave this prize a title of encouragement to a student of astronomy. See
the volume VIII of the Institute.
I ignore those which are becoming comets announced by the Journals.
[Some notes on the manuscript:]
Journal of Paris of February 6, 1808. Hamburg, January 27. For punishment a
comet came to be the end for us, which showed up in the firmament; one
the Arcade Islands which are at 59 degrees northern latitude, one has
discovered a vertical Comet. It is visible for the naked eye, the nucleus is
greater than that of the last but the tail is almost none. It appeared to
approach the Sun, it was at the beginning between the stars Mu and Nu of the
constellation Andromeda with which it formed a triangle. (Messier) presumes
that it is the beautiful nebula in the girdle of Andromeda
[M31, which was] taken for a comet.
Journal of Paris, October 22, 1808. Article from England of October 5:
"There has been discovered a Comet at Edinburgh, all the evening after
7 o'clock it was seen with the naked eye."
Journal de Paris, September 14, 1808. Vienna, September 3. "Several persons
pretend to have noted in the sky a new comet between the Pleiades and the
Journal de Paris, December 8, 1808 and the Journal of Physics: one
at Edinburgh that there one has observed a new comet.
Monday, May 11, 1807. Communicated to M. Bousson the concept of the
Notes on my Comets. Handed over on the 25th of the same month. He told me
one has made usage of it with praise.
12 October 1810: Submitted to M. Arago my note on the comets and two small
papers attached. He well wanted to review this note for being inserted in the
C de T [Connaissance des Tems].
8 May 1811: Communicated the 2nd copy to M. L'Ecuy [?, difficult to read - hf]
for announcing the comet discovered at Viviers on March 25, observed on the
The Empress gave birth to a prince before the 20th.
M. Bossut has discussed with me his history of mathematics.
- Charles Messier, 1811.
Notice de mes Comètes.
Manuscript No. C2-19 at the Paris Observatory.
- Guillaumme Bigourdan, 1904a.
Variétés. Sur les observations de comeètes de Messier.
Bulletin Astronomique, Serie I, Vol. 21, pp. 121-128
- Guillaumme Bigourdan, 1904b.
Variétés. Sur les observations de comeètes de Messier
Bulletin Astronomique, Serie I, Vol. 21, pp. 157-160
- Guillaumme Bigourdan, 1904c.
Variétés. Sur les observations de comeètes de Messier
[Suite et fin(1)].
Bulletin Astronomique, Serie I, Vol. 21, pp. 204-208
- Jean-Paul Philbert, 2001.
Definitive Version: June 14, 2001
Last Modification: November 10, 2019