Charles Messier was a French astronomer who lived from 1730 to 1817. He was very passionate about comets and discovered 13 comets himself. In his quest for comets however, he often became frustrated by other objects he observed in the sky. Messier began to keep a list of these permanent phenomena to help himself, as well as other comet hunters, distinguish between them and the comets they sought.

This list was published as "Catalogue des Nébuleuses et des Amas d'Étoiles" and initially contained just 45 numbered objects. Over time, the list grew to 110 astronomical items and many Messier objects are still referenced by the numbers in the Messier Catalogue today.