Messier objects are easiest to find using the stars and asterisms in different constellations. Only 34 out of the 88 constellations contain Messier objects.
Most of these constellations – 22 of them – are located in the northern celestial hemisphere and 12 are in the southern sky. The northern constellations that contain Messier objects are Andromeda, Auriga, Cancer, Canes Venatici, Cassiopeia, Coma Berenices, Cygnus, Draco, Gemini, Hercules, Leo, Lyra, Monoceros, Orion, Pegasus, Pisces, Sagitta, Serpens, Taurus, Triangulum, Ursa Major and Vulpecula. The southern constellations are Aquarius, Canis Major, Capricornus, Cetus, Hydra, Lepus, Ophiuchus, Puppis, Sagittarius, Scorpius, Scutum and Virgo.
The remaining 54 constellations either do not contain any particularly bright deep sky objects, or are located too far south to be visible from France, or Charles Messier simply overlooked or chose not to include some of the brighter objects found within their borders.
Messier made his observations from Paris. For this reason, his catalogue does not include many famous deep sky objects that can only be seen from southern latitudes, such as the Large Magellanic Cloud (mag 0.9) in the constellations Dorado and Mensa, the Small Magellanic Cloud (mag. 2.7) in Tucana and Hydrus, the globular clusters Omega Centauri (mag. 3.9) in Centaurus and 47 Tucanae (mag. 4.09) in Tucana, and the Carina Nebula (mag. 1.0) in Carina. All these objects are visible to the naked eye and appear quite large in good conditions, but cannot be seen from mid-northern latitudes.
Messier specifically looked for objects which appeared similar to comets and might deceive other comet hunters, but even though he made exceptions with some objects that did not resemble comets and had been widely known since ancient times (the Pleiades, the Orion Nebula, Praesepe), he did not do so with others. Notable absentees from Messier’s catalogue in the northern hemisphere include the Double Cluster (NGC 869 and NGC 884, mag. 3.7 and 3.8) in Perseus, the Hyades cluster (mag. 0.5) in Taurus, and the Helix Nebula (NGC 7293, mag. 7.6) in Aquarius.
The constellations with the greatest number of Messier objects are Sagittarius (15) and Virgo (11). Coma Berenices is home to eight objects, Ophiuchus and Ursa Major contain seven each, and Canes Venatici and Leo each host five.
Sagittarius lies in a particularly dense region of the Milky Way, in the direction of the galactic centre, which is why it contains a high number of bright clusters and nebulae. Virgo and Coma Berenices are rich in Messier objects because they host the Virgo Cluster, the nearest large galaxy cluster to the Milky Way. The total number of bright Virgo Cluster galaxies included in Messier’s catalogue is 17. Eleven of these are found in Virgo and six in Coma Berenices.
The 54 constellations that do not contain any Messier objects are: Antlia, Apus, Aquila, Ara, Aries, Boötes, Caelum, Camelopardalis, Canis Minor, Carina, Centaurus, Cepheus, Chamaeleon, Circinus, Columba, Corona Australis, Corona Borealis, Corvus, Crater, Crux, Delphinus, Dorado, Equuleus, Eridanus, Fornax, Grus, Horologium, Hydrus, Indus, Lacerta, Leo Minor, Libra, Lupus, Lynx, Mensa, Microscopium, Musca, Norma, Octans, Pavo, Perseus, Phoenix, Pictor, Piscis Austrinus, Pyxis, Reticulum, Sculptor, Sextans, Telescopium, Triangulum Australe, Tucana, Ursa Minor, Vela and Volans.
Many of these constellations contain a number of bright deep sky objects that were not included in the Messier Catalogue, but were later listed in the New General Catalogue (NGC) and the Index Catalogue (IC), which are far more comprehensive.
|Andromeda||Messier 31||Messier 32||Messier 110|
|Aquarius||Messier 2||Messier 72||Messier 73|
|Auriga||Messier 36||Messier 37||Messier 38|
|Cancer||Messier 44||Messier 67|
|Canes Venatici||Messier 3||Messier 51||Messier 63||Messier 94||Messier 106|
|Canis Major||Messier 41|
|Cassiopeia||Messier 52||Messier 103|
|Coma Berenices||Messier 53||Messier 64||Messier 85||Messier 88||Messier 91|
|Messier 98||Messier 99||Messier 100|
|Cygnus||Messier 29||Messier 39|
|Hercules||Messier 13||Messier 92|
|Hydra||Messier 48||Messier 68||Messier 83|
|Leo||Messier 65||Messier 66||Messier 95||Messier 96||Messier 105|
|Lyra||Messier 56||Messier 57|
|Ophiuchus||Messier 9||Messier 10||Messier 12||Messier 14||Messier 19|
|Messier 62||Messier 107|
|Orion||Messier 42||Messier 43||Messier 78|
|Pegasus||Messier 34||Messier 76|
|Puppis||Messier 46||Messier 47||Messier 93|
|Sagittarius||Messier 8||Messier 17||Messier 18||Messier 20||Messier 21|
|Messier 22||Messier 23||Messier 24||Messier 25||Messier 28|
|Messier 54||Messier 55||Messier 69||Messier 70||Messier 75|
|Scorpius||Messier 4||Messier 6||Messier 7||Messier 80|
|Scutum||Messier 11||Messier 26|
|Serpens||Messier 5||Messier 16|
|Taurus||Messier 1||Messier 45|
|Ursa Major||Messier 40||Messier 81||Messier 82||Messier 97||Messier 101|
|Messier 108||Messier 109|
|Virgo||Messier 49||Messier 58||Messier 59||Messier 60||Messier 61|
|Messier 84||Messier 86||Messier 87||Messier 89||Messier 90|